We’re always in favor of increasing voter turnout and we’re glad to see our government make it easier for people to vote.
New York approved a series of election reforms earlier this year, including early voting. Last week, we leaned how our local counties will implement it.
Voters will now have the opportunity to cast their ballots in the 10 days leading up to Election Day — Nov. 5 this year.
There are plenty of reasons to be happy about that.
People have jobs and families that need their attention. Fitting in a trip to the polls during designated hours on a given day might just not be possible. Long lines at polling places can make that problem worse.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo got it right when he announced the changes last winter: “At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,” he said. “These proposals will not only modernize our voting laws, they will remove barriers that have prevented and discouraged voters from exercising their sacred right to vote.”
Local elections officials seem optimistic that the changes will be well received.
Michael Henrici, Democratic commissioner for the Otsego County Board of Elections, 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.”
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, or conducting other business near the Board of Elections office, to stop in and vote.
People need to understand that part of the responsibility for early voting will fall upon them — it isn’t practical or affordable for counties to keep the area’s many polling places open for 10 days, so they will have to travel their county seats — Cooperstown, Delhi, Norwich or Schoharie — and cast ballots at the local board of elections. Voters who plan to vote early should check their local board of elections websites or call the offices to find out about voting hours.
We hope people will not be discouraged if early voting does not take off in its first year. New things take time to get used to, as Judith Garrison, Democratic commissioner for the Delaware County Board of Elections, told The Daily Star. She said she doesn’t know if people will feel the need to vote early, as they are accustomed to using absentee voting and, in general, there aren’t many long lines to vote at local polling places. She agreed, however, it’s a good option for voters to have.
For those who look at Election Day as an event, the option to visit a neighborhood polling place, greet a familiar election inspector and chat with voting friends and neighbors will still be there. It’s a good tradition, and should always remain among the options for exercising a fundamental right.
But expanding those options, giving more people more opportunities to vote, will result in truer democracy. Convincing more people to exercise that right and responsibility will likely always be a struggle, but making it easier to vote can only help.