Do early voting opportunities actually help voter turnout?
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Most of us will head to the polls Tuesday, but some of you may have already voted. Early voting wrapped up Sunday.
News10NBC’s Bekka Fifield has been looking into just how many people voted early this year.
Early voting started in 2019, and participation has been up and down, but this year’s went better than expected. When early voting started in Monroe County in 2019, Board of Elections commissioners had high hopes it would increase turnout.
It had a slow start — just over 10,000 used it.
In 2020, more than 100,000 voters took advantage of the opportunity. But we’ve never come close to that number since. Last year, a little over 55,000 voters went to the polls early.
This year, that number fell by more than half. A little over 23,000 registered voters in Monroe County came out.
So, how much is it helping with overall voter turnout?
“I think people are more comfortable with the process and like we are now, we’re talking about it’s convenient, right? You can go any time within those nine days. If you work on Election Day or you’re just busy with your family on Election Day, you can go any time that’s more convenient for you,” says Lisa Nicolay, Monroe County Board of Elections commissioner. “But honestly, I don’t, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s really expanding the voter turnout.”
“We want all of our voters to participate, all those who are eligible. We want them to come out. We want them to exercise their right to vote. We want them to pick the best method that works for them,” says Jackie Ortiz, a Monroe County Board of Elections commissioner.
Addressing the tech issues
Last year News10NBC had to wait until the next morning before some election results were posted due to a glitch in the server that the Monroe County Board of Elections was using.
This year they say they’re confident that problem won’t happen again.
The Monroe County Board of Elections commissioners say there were a few issues that caused the overall glitch.
“So, a year ago we had some issues with election night reporting,” says Nicolay. “It was actually a server issue. So this year, instead of using the county’s I.T. server, which is what we ended up doing last year to correct the problem, we’re going to start with our individual server and push the results up that way. And we don’t anticipate any problems, we didn’t have any issues in the primary.”
But it wasn’t just the issue with the server that caused the glitch. There was a law change that also played a role.
The law made it so early voters and absentee ballets were to be uploaded into the system they were using all at the same time at 9 p.m. All of this online traffic significantly slowed down the system.
The commissioners tell News10NBC that they will be uploading those results before 9 p.m. and then releasing all of those results at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
About 150,000 voters are expected to come out Tuesday in Monroe County.
Is there enough help?
Poll workers are what keep the election sites moving and operating smoothly. The election commissioners say that through early voting and Election Day on Tuesday, they’ve filled the slots for poll workers. But they are always looking for more — for upcoming election seasons.
This year the county only has to worry about the local elections. They say that they have had enough for all of the early polling sites and will continue to have enough for Election Day.
But next year could be a different story — we’ll have the 2024 presidential election to worry about, bringing in more voters, and more poll worker positions to fill.
“We definitely would encourage anyone who is interested in helping us out, especially for next year, to please, you know, reach out to us. Now, let’s get you on the schedule and make sure that we get you trained and ready to go, because we will certainly need many more individuals when it comes to elections in the presidential 2024,” said Jackie Ortiz, the Democratic election commissioner with the county Board of Elections.
Click here if you’re interested in learning about becoming a poll worker