Voters queue up in the Lake George Town Hall, waiting to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 2012 General Election. Turnout was heavy, and the waiting line at times extended through the town hall lobby out the entrance door. A new Early Voting legislative proposal, while aiming to boost voters' convenience, has prompted outcry from election commissioners who say it would be expensive and impractical.
A statewide early voting system as proposed by Democrats in the state Assembly would be far too unwieldy and expensive to implement, Warren County leaders said this week.
Friday Jan. 25, county supervisors serving on the Legislative & Rules Committee endorsed a resolution opposing the measure — which would entail setting up five polling sites in the county and keeping them open and staffed with election inspectors for 11 hours per day for two full weeks before each general election, even through the weekends. The proposal also mandates that such provisions be made for a week prior to both primary and special elections.
“If enacted, this proposal would create a tsunami of problems throughout New York State,” county Republican Elections Commissioner Mary Beth Casey told the committee members.
Existing election laws mandating computerized voting machines with pre-printed ballots customized for each jurisdiction would make administering the election very difficult and expensive, she said.
Three to four computerized machines and supplies of 19 ballots styles would have to be available in quanitity at all five locations, which would have to be staffed with 20 inspectors total. Once any sealed ballot package of 50 were opened, the remainder of the ballots in the package would have to be destroyed. Such state mandates already in place cost the county taxpayers $110,000 or more per year — without the additional early voting.
Each station would have to be equipped with a specialized ballot marking device to accomodate those with physical challenges, with an inspector trained to instruct others in their use, she continued.
“Heaven knows where we’d get the election inspectors we’d need,” she said.
The mandates to daily pre-test, prepare and secure the machines would also be burdensome, she said, noting that it might be impossible to meet the security requirements without transporting the machines daily to and from the county Municipal Center. Casey said the early voting, if enacted, would cost local taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars per election.
Casey said she supported the concept of early voting — because it encourages more people to vote — but it should be accomplished through the existing system in place for absentee voting.
The absentee regulations — now providing only for those out-of-the area, physically challenged, or in jail — would have to be expanded to include those merely seeking to vote at their convenience.
She said the absentee system works well, features tight security and was inexpensive. She noted that the county handled 3,500 absentee ballots this last election.
Casey said that expanding voting opportunities made the most sense in New York City, where only 46 percent voter turnout occured this past election. Warren County voters tallied a 70 percent turnout, she said.
In response to Casey’s pleas, the county supervisors voted unanimously to draft a resolution and send it to state legislators and Gov. Cuomo.
Queensbury at-large Supervisor Bill Mason said the early voting proposal was ineffective and impractical.
“This is yet another unfunded mandate that may be jammed down our throats,” he said.
In Essex County, the county’s two elections commissioners made a similar plea Jan. 14 to county supervisors.