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Early Voting Now NYS Law, Counties Grappling With How to pay for it

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Thursday, a week after the Legislature passed historic voting reform, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation into law making New York the 38th state to allow early voting.

The new law establishes a nine-day early voting period before election days. The early voting period would conclude on the Sunday before an election.

Counties across New York State are now grappling with the question of how to fund the implementation of the new law. Experts estimate the cost of early voting to be $10 million or more. The New York State Association of Counties says it could be as much as $1 million for each of the 57 counties outside New York City.

Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and founding member of the Let NY Vote Coalition says the signing of the new law is just the first step.
“The Governor must allocate funding in his budget in order for early voting to be successful in November. New Yorkers are counting on him to get it right,” Lerner said.

“Although Governor Cuomo included an early voting proposal in his budget bills for 2019-20, he did not include a funding line to cover the associated costs. While the consolidation of primaries will produce a cost savings as the Governor suggests, a cost savings is not the same as direct funding. Additionally, primaries won’t be consolidated until next year even though early voting is slated to begin this November. That would make early voting an unfunded mandate forcing counties to cover the cost. “

The Let NY Vote Coalition is a statewide network of over 100 member organizations ranging from 32BJ, to NAACP New York to New York State Indivisible.

On MLK day, other members of Let NY Vote Coalition, as well as the NYS Association of Counties and the NYS Elections Commissioner Association Democratic Caucus, issued statements calling for the Governor to fund early voting:

“As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, it’s great to see Governor Cuomo propose a strong voting rights agenda as part of his budget, but counties also need direct funding to execute priorities like early voting. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to make accessible, efficient elections more than just a dream for all New Yorkers,” said Hazel Dukes, President New York NAACP and Rev. Dr. Robert M Waterman, Pastor of Antioch Baptist of Brooklyn and President of African American Clergy and Elected Officials (AACEO).

The new law follows 13 other states plus DC that allows pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds, increasing the likelihood of voter participation among young adults.

Currently New York is the only state with two primary days, June and September. The law consolidates New York’s primary dates to the fourth Tuesday in June for both federal and state primaries.

Other reforms include vote by mail, same day registration and Universal transfer of voter registration: If a voter moves anywhere within New York State, their registration address will be automatically updated, and if not, he or she will be able to vote by affidavit ballot.