We favor any initiative that has the promise or potential of increasing voter participation, provided, of course, that it doesn’t create more harm than good.
So the idea of enabling voters to cast their ballots at times more convenient to them is alluring.
Early voting is an issue being supported by various entities, including the powerful New York State United Teachers, which has more than 600,000 members. Its sheer numbers make it a strong voting bloc, but they also make the union a political force because politicians would like to curry its members’ favor.
When you think about it, why should everybody be restricted to one day to accomplish something as important to our democracy as casting a vote? Other than absentee ballots, that day is the only chance voters have.
Consider the importance of every vote. This past Election Day, the race for Town of Beekmantown supervisor was decided by a margin of one vote, when incumbent Sam Dyer became the winner over Norm Davis after a number of recounts, challenges and examinations of ballots.
Rarely does any race come to that, but it can and does happen. Therefore, it behooves government at every level to find ways to get as many people as possible to vote.
There are all kinds of reasons for certain people not to be able to vote on Election Day. So why not give them other options?
As Mahoney documented, New Yorkers are not especially moved to get to the polls. This state is a sorry 41st in percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in the 2016 general election — a shameful statistic.
There is no guarantee that extending the opportunity to vote would ramp up New York’s record, of course. But any action that would help would be worth the effort.
Would it cost more? That depends how the additional voting would wind up being offered.
But advocates are encouraging the state to help fund the expense. Thirty-seven other states already have early voting, so clearly it can be done in a way that is not cost-prohibitive.
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) is proposing a "no excuse" absentee-ballot application, which would, spokesman Dan MacEntee explains, "simply create a mechanism, separate of the current absentee ballot process, whereby voters could cast their vote at the county board of elections in the 14 days leading up to Election Day for a primary and general election.
"Betty wants to ensure this doesn't result in an unfunded mandate, so it wouldn't require boards to be open beyond current operations."
MacEntee said she came up with the idea while serving on the New York State Women's Suffrage Commission and talking with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul about ways to increase voter participation.
"While this could benefit anyone, Betty was thinking of the working parent, balancing a lot in their life, who may intend to vote on Election Day but when things come up unexpectedly with kids, as we know they sometimes do, the intended voter misses the chance," MacEntee said.
The Press-Republican strongly supports Little's proposal and other cost-effective means to give New Yorkers more time to vote.