The members of the New York State Legislature recently drew the ire of many residents by rushing to pass a bill, a mistake that should not be repeated when it comes to the topic of early voting.
Members of both parties are looking at an early voting bill (Assembly Bill No. 689 and Senate Bill 1461), which would allow residents of New York state to vote as early as 14 days before the General Election in November and seven days before a primary election.
Something probably should be done to curb the trend of low voter turnout. We have to look no further than the village of Keeseville, which held a vote Jan. 22 that in large part determined the future of the municipality. In the end, village residents voted to dissolve their municipality by a total of 268 votes in favor of dissolution to 176 against. The residents spoke — or did they?
In total, 444 votes were cast in the matter, which can be seen as good voter turnout. However, there are 955 registered voters in the village and roughly 1,800 residents. There was not even a 50-percent turnout in a village vote that meant residents would never get to have another village vote.
We feel that this is a shame, that so few people cared about the fact that their way of life will certainly change. Whether it is for the better or for the worse is a debate that will still be had, but change it will, and only 46 percent of the registered voters in the town took the five minutes out of their lives to make their voices heard on one of the most important votes in the history of the village (made even more so because of the outcome). So, while we commend those who took to the polls, the majority of Keeseville residents should be ashamed of their apathy, expecially if their vote could have changed the outcome.
The turnout for the General Election statewide in 2012 was also 46 percent, a number which ranked New York as having the third lowest voter turnout in the nation.
So something is wrong and needs to be changed, and we can agree with that. Lawmakers are saying that they want this to be enacted for this election season, which begins with primaries in September and the General Election Nov. 5.
In a way, it sounds a lot like the legislative push on gun violence: here’s the problem, lets fix it now, here’s an idea, passed.
On this one, the legislature needs to take a deep breath and listen to the foot soldiers, the ones who have been put in charge of the matter at the county level.
In Essex County, Democratic Commissioner to the Board of Elections Robert Pell-deChame basically called out lawmakers for what would be yet another unfunded state mandate, making counties spend more money on poll workers that would have to be set up in one of at least five early voting polling sites spread throughout the county. Additional mileage would also have to be paid.
To make matters worse, bringing early voting to the state this year would give counties an unfunded mandate that they are not even prepared for, with counties already having spending plans for the year in place and, in the case of Essex County, having very little wiggle room to fund a new mandate from the state.
So please, lawmakers, on this one, take a step back, look at all of the issues that come with this decision, and not just the ones that would lead to quick passage of these bills. You’ve already done that once this year, and it didn’t work out very well for you.