Early voting is a great idea — in concept. It might even increase voting, if it is executed wisely.
The state is considering a measure that would allow voting for up to 15 days before a general election and eight days before a primary or special election.
Under the plan, each county would establish four polling sites in the county, as well as the main Board of Elections office.
During the early-voting period, the polls would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ballots would be collected each day and brought to the main office after the polls close, to be counted on election night.
Giving voters a two-week window to exercise their right would almost certainly boost participation because people wouldn’t be turned off by bad weather, illness or suddenly being called out of town on election day.
But the plan has some serious flaws.
Keeping four polling sites open every day for two weeks would require at least 16 poll workers. Local Board of Elections officials have lamented that it is hard enough to find workers for just one election day.
Those workers are not volunteers. They each earn $150 per day for a general election and $110 for a primary or special election. They also have to be trained, which costs $25 per worker.
The main elections offices would also have to be open later during the week and on weekends in order to collect ballots, racking up overtime costs.
All told, counties in our area could wind up paying about $60,000 to offer early voting. The state, by the way, has not offered one dime to offset the costs for the locals.
Sounds exactly like yet another unfunded mandate that local governments have been complaining about for decades.