Whether you voted or not, counties use that data to save money.

But Board of Elections commissioners at Washington County take things a step further. Not only do they look at voter turnouts from previous elections, they've adopted a strategy similar to Wal-Mart's "just-in-time" inventory, projecting the ballot needs of each polling site beforehand and hand-delivering extra ballots when needed.

With traditional lever-type voting machines, election boards simply stored a summary sheet along with affidavit, emergency and absentee ballots. But for the last two years, with electronic voting ballots in use, the state and printers have informally recommended that election boards look at the number of registered voters, then print out 110 percent of ballots needed, according to state and local officials.

Counties that have printed 100 percent have ended with too many unused ballots, said Washington County Republican Commissioner Leslie Allen.

In a time of local government budget cuts, Washington County sought to avoid paying the 57 cents per ballot charged by a private printer. This summer, the county bought a 12-foot by 4-foot printer, which prints out 90 pages per minute. Each ballot costs 7 cents.

"It's a heck of a lot cheaper," Allen said.

Savings from printing costs this year alone have already recouped the cost of the printer, Allen said.

But Washington County's printer is a rarity across the state. Only four other counties - Chautauqua, Erie, Onondaga and Schenectady - have their own printers or in-house print shops, Allen said.

Saratoga County contracts with a printer, and orders about three-quarters of its total of 148,887 registered voters.

"You have to print enough so you have a comfort level that you're not going to run out of ballots," said Saratoga County Commissioner Bill Fruci.

Fruci said, if the county bought a printer, it would have to hire staff, an expense that local officials would probably not agree to.

Because Washington County doesn't have to print every ballot in advance, it can cut back on the number of extra ballots it pays for.

Washington County election commissioners look at historical trends, and use voter turnouts to estimate the number of ballots needed for each village or town.

For this year's primary elections in September, county officials predicted about 35 percent of registered voters would show in Fort Ann. But because of the nature of primaries - smaller total numbers and races that only deal with one political party as opposed to multiple parties, creating a small margin of error - the polling site was running out of ballots more quickly than expected.

Each bundle of ballot books, however, includes a pink sheet of paper for when poll workers approach less than 50 ballots - one ballot book. The sheet warns crews to call the board of elections at that time, so the county can print out additional ballots and drive them to the polling site.

About 5:15 that night, Allen received a phone call that Fort Ann needed more ballots, and she assembled and delivered two more ballot books by 5:45 p.m., she said.

No other races in the primary or Tuesday's general election needed personal deliveries, she said.

With a contracted printer, the county would not be able to ask for additional print runs on demand, election staff said.

The Board of Elections gives extra backup ballots to outlying municipalities because of driving times from its Fort Edward office. Contested races also receive more ballots.

For Tuesday's election, about 28 percent of the county's 34,350 registered voters cast ballots. Washington County printed about 70 percent of the ballots needed if every registered voter showed up.

Counties must keep every used ballot for 22 months after each election, said state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin. Unused ballots can be recycled, he said.

Conklin said other states that adopted the optical scan systems before New York state had recommended printing more than needed at first because of voter mistakes in filling out the ballots.

He said the state had always planned to revisit that 110 percent recommendation.

In the Washington County Municipal Center across from Board of Elections, there's a storage closet that holds dozens of cardboard boxes filled with ballots from previous elections. Before the county bought its printer, boxes from previous elections towered as tall as one's head.

On Tuesday, of Warren County's 41,404 registered voters, about 31 percent cast ballots. In Saratoga County, about 20 percent showed up.

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