Ulster leaders press GOP official to add voting site and longer hours to shorten wait
The leader of the Ulster County Legislature publicly pressed the county's Republican election commissioner on Wednesday to allow the county to open an additional early-voting site and extend voting hours to alleviate long waits at the polls.
County Executive Pat Ryan and the Legislature Chairman David Donaldson, both of whom are Democrats, had issued a joint call for longer hours on Tuesday after a fourth day of heavy voter turnout. The county's Democratic election commissioner supports that idea but the Republican commissioner, Tom Turco, doesn't, and no change can be made without his agreement.
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Donaldson issued a second statement on Wednesday that identified Turco as the obstacle and said Turco had prevented the county from opening eight early voting sites instead of five. He urged Turco to allow longer hours and a voting site in Saugerties, the most populated town in the county.
Donaldson charged that "Ulster County voters are forced to stand for hours in the rain" because of Turco's refusal so far to use available funds for those purposes.
Turco didn't respond to requests for comment from the Times Herald-Record.
Election officials in Orange and Sullivan counties also had made no plans as of Wednesday to extend poll hours for the four remaining days of early voting to shorten waits that have stretched for as long as two hours or more.
All three counties have scheduled early-voting sites to be open for five hours on weekends and eight hours on weekdays, the minimum amount prescribed in the early-voting law New York enacted last year.
Sullivan's election commissioners had gotten no directive from the state Board of Elections to extend voters and had no plan to do so, county spokesman Dan Hust said on Wednesday. Orange County's election commissioners didn't respond to a question about extending hours.
Ulster's Democratic commissioner, Ashley Dittus, said she has suggested adding one additional voting hour on Friday and Sunday and two more hours on Saturday. She argued the county was violating state regulations by forcing voters to wait more than 30 minutes and had a legal obligation to reduce that wait.
Some 11,357 Ulster County voters cast ballots from Saturday through Tuesday, the first four days of New York's nine-day early voting period before the Nov. 3 election, according to the state Board of Elections. The voter counts were 17,192 in Orange County and 3,199 in Sullivan during that same time.