Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Election commissioners from around the state met Monday afternoon to discuss the governor’s call for early voting. The association favors the idea, but has its own thoughts on how it should be done.
Four years ago, New York made a radical change to its voting system with the introduction of optical scan machines. Now, it’s ready for another huge change – early voting, which happens in 32 states. In last year’s presidential election about 70 percent of registered voters in Onondaga County headed to the polls; the year before, about 30 percent of people voted, which is more typical.
The governor wants an early voting system that lasts one week and includes the weekend before a scheduled election, but commissioners are still awaiting details of the plan, like whether it would be done with machines and how many polling places would there be.
"We don't have money to open the poll sites for that many days and staff them…As an association, what the commissioners across the state has been urging instead is no excuse absentee voting, so a voter could come in up to 30 days before the election and cast a ballot and not have to worry about it on Election Day,” explained Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Helen Kiggins Walsh. "Thirty days ahead -- a lot can happen -- candidates can get arrested, a candidate can do god knows what. With an absentee ballot if you've voted that far ahead you can still come in and get another ballot and change your mind if you wanted to.”
Walsh says an early voting system with absentee ballots would be the easiest way to track who’s voted and make sure no one votes twice.
While they wait for details on early voting plans, Onondaga County commissioners are pushing for the Syracuse City School District to make Election Day a day off. It would increase the availability and ease of polling locations. Right now, the cities of Buffalo and New York do it.