COOPERSTOWN — Otsego County lawmakers have a message for Albany: Don’t enact “early voting” legislation that would allow voting to take place up to 14 days before a general election and a up to a week before a primary or special election.
Bills being promoted by Democrats in both the state Senate and the Assembly would authorize early voting in New York in an effort to boost voter participation in elections.
But critics of the measure say it would amount to an unfunded mandate because of the costs counties would incur to staff and administer polling places on multiple days leading up to Election Day.
The Otsego County Board of Representatives this week overwhelmingly approved a resolution opposing the early voting legislation. The idea that has been criticized by state GOP Chairman Ed Cox as well as Otsego County Republican Chairwoman Sheila Ross, who also serves as the GOP commissioner of elections for the county.
Only Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, voted against the resolution.
According to the resolution, the cost of staffing voting locations for the extra days and printing paper ballots associated with early voting would exceed $90,000 for general and primary elections in the county.
The resolution also pointed out that the state’s 2 percent tax cap and “insufficient relief from state-imposed mandates has already placed an unprecedented strain on local governments to provide more services with less funding.”
Hank Nicols, the county’s Democratic elections commissioner, said while the early voting legislation has a noble goal — greater voter participation — the measure is flawed because it hits counties with new costs.
“It’s a good idea, but how do you pay for it?” Nicols said. He said other alternatives — such as allowing voting by mail even when voters are not away from their homes — should be considered as ways to boost the overall vote count.
John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said his agency has not adopted a formal stance on the early voting proposal.
He noted some experts have concluded early voting would not appreciably increase turnout, and there could be problems finding polling stations at schools or other public buildings for more than one day.
“There are issues we see with it,” Conklin said. “Certainly, funding is one of them.”