May 8, 2013

Early voting plan debated

PLATTSBURGH — While local officials agree that offering early voting has its merits, they worry that it would be just another unfunded state mandate.

“This is another example of a good idea gone wrong,” Clinton County Legislator Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain) said.

“This could be a slippery slope.”


The state is considering offering early voting for two weeks before the general elections and eight days before primary and special elections.

The polls would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each weekday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday during the early-voting period.

Ballots cast during early voting would be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in the election-night count.

The idea behind the offering is to increase voter participation.

According to a news release from New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, voter participation in November 2012 was about 59.5 percent in New York, which was among the lowest in the nation.

In the 2008 election, also a presidential election year, the turnout rate in the state was 64.2 percent.

Schneiderman’s release said that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of registered non-voters said they did not turn out to cast their ballot because they were too busy or because of conflicting work or school schedules.

Also, 15 percent said they did not vote because of an illness, disability or family emergency, release said.


The State Assembly approved a bill last week that calls for, starting in 2014, each county board of elections to designate at least four polling places for voters to cast early ballots, as well as the main office, for a total of five polling places.

The sites would be spread out across the county to allow equal access to all.

McManus said staffing the polling sites for up to two weeks each day, as well as training staffers, would be costly.

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