The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Early voting would be costly

  • Instituting early voting in New York would be costly and difficult to implement.

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  • Instituting early voting in New York would be costly and difficult to implement.
    That’s what a number of Steuben County legislators recently told state Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, and Assemblymen Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, and Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford.
    “It’s just another unfunded (state) mandate,” said Legislator Gary B. Roush, R-Erwin.
    Steuben County Administrator Mark R. Alger said early voting has become popular across the country.
    The state Assembly and Senate are currently considering legislation to establish early voting in New York.
    “I certainly think we need to boost the voter turnout as much as we can,” Alger said. “The problem in New York at this point is the way they’re going about it. It would cost a significant amount of money and the state doesn’t support that financially at all. It’s all a local cost.”
    O’Mara said he doesn’t support the early voting legislation.
    “It’s very popular in downstate New York,” O’Mara said. “But not very popular upstate. Mainly because of the added cost.”
    “I see it as an unfunded mandate,” Palmesano said. “I’m against it for that alone and that’s why I will vote against it.”
    Under the proposed legislation, each county would be required to operate at least five polling areas from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, including weekends, 14 days before any general election and seven days before a special election.
    In New York, 46 percent of voters turned out in November’s general election, the third-lowest in the nation. A total of 32 other states and the District of Columbia already offer early voting.
    Steuben County Republican Commissioner Veronica Olin said Steuben County has a hard time finding enough election inspectors to cover all the county’s 55 polling sites.
    “I believe this is something that they want to do,” Olin said. “But they haven’t thought it out enough. It would make it expensive and very difficult for us to find people for polling sites.”
    Olin said the early voting law would increase the cost in Steuben County about $16,000 for a primary and about $31,000 for a general election.
    Joe Welch, the county’s Democratic commissioner and a member of the state Democratic Commission, said reducing the number of early voting sites from five to one and lowering the days of the early voting would greatly reduce the cost.
    Alger said alternatives need to be explored to reduce the significant cost increases to local counties, towns, villages and cities.
    “They could look at using absentee ballots,” Alger said. “Then you don’t have to have polling places open. That’s just of the top of my head. I’m sure there are other things that could be used as well.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Alger said the current state plans would greatly increase the cost of operating the polling places.
    “I’m not sure how we would do that,” Alger said. “Not sure if we’d have to pick the machines up every day and bring them to a central location or how we would go about it.”
    O’Mara, Palmesano and Nojay each said they didn’t think a decision by the Senate or Assembly would be made in the coming weeks.

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