January 11, 2019 11:09 PM
New York Lawmakers and voters cheered state plans to change voting laws, including the prospect of early voting, in the 2019 legislative session.
"What we've seen, unfortunately, our laws keep peoples away from the polls and not have them participate simply because we weren't keeping up-to-date with the Times,” declared Rochester area state Assemblywoman Jamie Romeo, one of the sponsors on a series of voting law changes.
Proposed changes would include a provision to let voters cast ballots before an election day. More than 30 other states already have some kind of early voting.
"It's really an effort to update our antiquated laws to make sure that every citizen, every New Yorker, as ability to have access to the polls,” Romeo said.
The early voting idea drew praise in a random survey of voters by News10NBC.
“Anything we can do to increase access in a democracy seems like a good idea,” said Rachel McGuire of Rochester. “Early voting is one of many things we need to do to create a more democratic voting system, more accessibility for people who are too busy.”
"Maybe it will bring a bit more awareness to people who never consider voting," mused Sheree Woody of Rochester
“It doesn’t have to be just confined to one day, one particular time of the year,” said Romeo. “If you happen to get into the hospital or you can’t get child care or something happens and you didn’t get to the polls, well, you are out of luck.’ We wanted to make sure were really expanding and opening up that process.”
The idea did draw one voter caveat. "a lot of people aren't even paying attention until two weeks before,” cautioned Scott Kodanko of Brockport, “You wouldn't want it too early. You want all the issues, all the things that come out, so that people can vote intelligently."
The plan drew more urgent alarms of sticker shock from representatives for the state’s counties who actually administer elections. “Most importantly, who’s paying for it?” asked Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties.
Acquario predicted that the additional days of staffing and securing polling places, printing of additional ballots, counting the ballots and ensuring computer systems are secure could cost each county an additional $500,000 to $1 million, money cash strapped counties could not afford.
“It’s a good thing to expand voting for our citizens, make it easier to vote. People are very busy these days,” Acquario said. “It’s very understandable with family obligations. But what’s not being discussed is who’s going to pay for this?”
Cost was not a deterrent for Rochester voter Tim Schuler who remarked “I think it’s probably worth it to get, especially the communities who aren’t able to go in and vote, that are marginalized as a result. I think it will probably be worth it.”
Acquario pointed to the expected unveiling of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget as the right setting for any new voting measures and the venue where they could be coupled with a funding mechanism, one he said was lacking in current plans, leaving local governments with a burdensome unfunded mandate. “The governor is going to reach a budget on Tuesday,” he said. “And the legislature is passing a piece of legislation on Monday. and they’re connected to each other. They need to be together and have an appropriation tied to it.”
Two more high profile voting adjustments would allow voters to register and vote on the same day, and to vote by mail. Those changes would require amendments to the state constitution which must be approved by the voters in their own referendums.
Updated: January 11, 2019 11:09 PM
Created: January 11, 2019 10:56 PM
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