Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green
Early voting is a proven way to increase voter turnout and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the polls. The democratic commissioners in the 103-year-old New York State Election Commissioners Association are expressing strong support for Governor Cuomo’s recent proposal to provide State funding for early voting throughout New York State. The proposal, which was included as part of the Governor’s “30 Day Amendments” in budget deliberations, has received support from leaders in both houses of the New York State Legislature and would add $7 million to aid in implementing early voting.
The Commissioners in the Democratic Caucus, who along with their dedicated staffs oversee hundreds of elections annually, were nearly unanimous in their belief that it is high time for New York to join the 37 other states that already have some form of early voting. They also noted that the number of days designated for early voting — twelve in the Governor’s proposal, eight in the early voting bills sponsored by Assembly Elections Committee Chair Charles Lavine and Senator Brian Kavanaugh, Ranking Democratic Member on the Senate Elections Committee — are less important than the monumental step of getting some form of early voting in place for voters in the 2019 election cycle. To that end, the Democratic Caucus has formed a working group to advise and educate state legislators as well as the Executive branch on the best way to craft legislation to make Early Voting work for all of the 62 counties throughout New York State.
Dustin Czarny, the Conference Chair, stated: “I am pleased that Governor Cuomo and Legislative leaders have determined that this is the year to propose meaningful electoral reform and expand accessibility with early voting. New York has lagged in electoral reform, preventing many citizens from meaningful participation in the Democratic process. The proposed legislation, coupled with a State appropriation to counties and the City of New York to reduce the financial burden on our local Boards of Elections, gives New Yorkers the accessibility to the ballot box that they deserve. This is a long overdue step for the State of New York and, when passed, will relieve New Yorkers of the choice between voting and fulfilling personal, family or professional obligations.”
Nassau County Democratic Commissioner David Gugerty stated, “Though some have expressed apprehension about implementation, my fellow commissioners and I are confident that our Boards of Election can and will work through the logistical challenges of launching early voting. In partnership with our State Board, our County Boards of Elections perform under pressure and difficult situations. From Superstorm Sandy and power outages to the implementation of electronic voting itself, our professional staff is trained and ready to deal with all scenarios. Working together, we can create the policies and procedures to successfully launch early voting and increase voter participation.”
Rockland County Democratic Commissioner Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky added, “It is important that officials throughout the State of New York do everything possible to increase voter participation and ensure that all eligible voters have unfettered access to the polls. We are on the front lines every election cycle and are constantly asked by voters why one of the largest, most progressive states does not yet have early voting. Voting is the foundation of a democratic society. As election commissioners, our job is to encourage and increase voter participation. We support this legislation enthusiastically and believe it is a critical step towards broadening voter participation and access.