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Early voting

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell and other state lawmakers want to impose another unfunded mandate on counties in the form of early voting requirements.

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Russell would require counties to have polling places open at least 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary election. A proposed law would require at least five polling places that would have to be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

However, in 2012, New York had a presidential primary in April, congressional primaries in June and state legislative primaries in September. If the law were in effect last year, it would have added 35 days of voting paid for by county taxpayers.

Jefferson County Republican Elections Commissioner Jerry O. Eaton said early voting costs for a general election alone would cost at least $50,000 in addition to the $70,000 for inspectors on election day, with additional costs for early primary voting.

Lewis County officials say nine sites would be needed at an estimated cost of about $120,000 to comply with the law. Lawmakers there voted Tuesday to oppose the plan.

Assemblywoman Russell’s bill recognizes the fiscal implications in a general way, citing “additional costs associated with staffing early voting locations as well as with printing and counting paper ballots associated with early voting, in addition to other unstated costs.” She did not consult Mr. Eaton, though.

The proposal would present added difficulty for county boards in finding people willing to work the extra time. It would present logistical problems in transporting voting machines from storage to polling places.

Election commissioners could have trouble finding polling sites that are frequently located in schools, fire departments or clubrooms if voting might disrupt their routine operations for 14 days. Security would also be a concern to ensure machines are not tampered with to protect against fraud during the extended voting period.

Early voting would add to the workload of county offices, which might have to increase staff.

With just a few sites open, election officials would have to contend with multiple ballots covering combinations of different races in portions of some districts. St. Lawrence County, for example, has seven state legislative districts while Jefferson County has three Assembly districts. Separate ballots would have to be prepared to reflect any local municipal races up for election. Counties might also have to purchase additional voting machines.

Gov. Cuomo endorsed early voting in his State of the State message as a way to improve low voter turnout and to avoid problems that arose after Superstorm Sandy. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow registered voters to cast a ballot in person ahead of Election Day.

In New York, an excuse is needed to cast an absentee ballot if a voter cannot do so on election day. If Gov. Cuomo and Assemblywoman Russell want New York to join the early voting trend, they should start with the less costly alternative of absentee voting without an excuse.

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