Otsego, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie county residents can now vote in person before election day, thanks to new statewide voting rules.
This change is part of a series of changes that were signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January. Voters in New York state now have 10 days before the actual election day — Tuesday, Nov. 5 — to vote.
A summary and analysis of the reforms from the state senate's website stated that previous election law in the state did not have any form of early voting other than absentee balloting with an excuse. Therefore, someone who didn't qualify for an absentee ballot but had to work or had family obligations on Election Day may not have been able to cast a ballot at all.
Prior to the bill's signing, New York was one of only 16 states that didn't offer early voting, according to the summary and analysis page.
Otsego County's early voting dates are every day from Saturday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Nov. 3, at Meadows Office Complex, Classroom A, 140 County Highway 33W in Cooperstown. Visit www.otsegocounty.com/departments/a-c/board_of_elections/earlyvoting.php for the full list of dates and times.
Michael Henrici, Democratic commissioner for the Otsego County Board of Elections, said he hopes early voting will help solve issues faced by those who can't get to the polls on election day for whatever reason. He gave the example of people who have unexpected things come up on Election Day, and aren't able to get an absentee ballot because it's too late.
"If there is a resource for people who have trouble getting in on Election Day, this gives people a variety of day and hours," Henrici said. "They can have an opportunity to vote in person."
For Chenango County, early voting begins Saturday, Oct. 26, and lasts through Thursday, Oct. 31, at the Chenango County Board of Elections Office located at 5 Court St. in Norwich. Visit www.co.chenango.ny.us/elections/ to view the timings.
Mary Lou Monahan, Republican commissioner for the Chenango County Board of Elections, said she hopes the variety of dates and times will inspire people who are already out and about anyway, or conducting other business in the Board of Elections office, to stop in and vote.
Delaware County early voting starts Saturday, Oct. 26, and ends Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Board of Elections Office located at 3 Gallant Ave. in Delhi. Timings are listed at www.co.delaware.ny.us/departments/elec/early_voting.htm.
Judith Garrison, Democratic commissioner for the Delaware County Board of Elections, said she doesn't know if people will feel the need to vote early, as people are accustomed to using absentee voting and in general, there aren't many long lines to vote. However, she agrees it's a good option for voters to have.
Early voting in Schoharie County will begin Saturday, Oct. 26, and end Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Schoharie County Board of Elections Office at 284 Main St., 3rd floor, Suite 300.
To inquire about each county's accommodations for voters with disabilities, contact your county's Board of Elections Office.
Otsego, Chenango and Delaware counties will also be using new electronic pollbooks. The new system may increase the efficiency of looking up voter registration status, according to www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/zellnor-myrie/senate-passes-legislation-allow-electronic-pollbooks-bringing.
Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.