Committee Discusses Early Voting

MAYVILLE – A motion opposing early voting has the Board of Elections commissioners sitting on opposite sides of the fence.

Monday, the Administrative Services Committee discussed a motion opposing proposed New York state legislation, which would establish early voting for general, primary and special elections.

If the legislation goes through, the bill would allow early voting to take place up to 14 days before a general election, and up to seven days before a primary and special election, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on every early voting day, including Saturday and Sunday. Additionally, the Chautauqua County Board of Elections would be required to select a minimum of five polling places throughout the county and provide elections inspectors at each location.

The motion presented to the Administrative Services Committee argued there would be significant costs associated with staffing early voting locations, as well as costs associated with printing paper ballots. Additionally, it argued that there would be a strain placed on the Board of Elections to recruit and train qualified election poll inspectors, and that the 2 percent tax cap and insufficient relief from state-imposed mandates have already placed a strain on local governments to provide more services with less funding.

“This is basically an unfunded mandate from the state of New York,” said Jay Gould, R-Ashville, who introduced the motion. “It will cost Chautauqua County around $30,000 to do this. I feel that legislators were sent up here to watch the taxpayers’ dollars. That’s why I put this motion in.”

Although he said the mandate could be put into place in Chautauqua County with few issues, Brian Abram, Republican Board of Elections commissioner, said the county would face some financial challenges.

“I believe that the time constraints are too long, I mean, 15 days and seven days are excessive,” Abram said. “I do believe we could make this happen, but under the current situation we are facing and what the cost would be associated, in 2016 you’re going to be looking at $9 an hour because of the minimum wage changes, so you’ll see that number much higher.”

Norman Green, Democratic Board of Elections commissioner, was unable to attend Monday’s meeting. However, he sent a letter to the members of the Administrative Services Committee, encouraging them to vote against the motion.

“I am writing in behalf of the more than 80,000 voters of Chautauqua County who deserve and desire every expanded opportunity to vote,” Green wrote. “Currently, 32 states allow voters to cast votes ‘early’ before Election Day. About one-third of all votes cast in the United States this past election were cast as part of early voting programs. Sadly, none of those early votes were cast in New York state.”

Green said that if the legislation is enacted, he and Abram have already discussed locations for the early voting, including locations in the Jamestown-Lakewood Fairmount Avenue shopping district; Dunkirk-Fredonia Brigham Road shopping district; Charlotte and Findley Lake; and Mayville. Additionally, he said the Mayville location would not need to be staffed, as they are already at the location the majority of the times polling would be open, and would be able to handle the workload by using flex scheduling.

“The cost is the bad news,” Green said. “The good news is that we will be able to expand our delivery of voting to our taxpayers at not too high of a cost. Additionally, this will decrease the Election Day work load at the poll sites, and we will be able to long-term reduce the number of workers at each poll site.”

Because it was a motion, the committee did not vote on whether it should be passed. However, the full legislature will have an opportunity to discuss the motion at its monthly meeting June 26 at 6:30 p.m.