Op-Ed It's Time For Early Voting In NYS
Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 1:39PM

Op-Ed from the Desk of Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory

In the news conference unveiling his 2018-2019 executive state budget Governor Andrew Cuomo again calls for a plan to initiate early voting in New York State along with same-day voter registration. 

It isn’t the first time he has called upon counties in New York to implement this plan. Unfortunately, his proposal has gone nowhere time and time again. 

It is time for that to change.

Cuomo’s plan would require counties to offer at least one early voting polling location for every 50,000 residents during a 12-day period before Election Day. The polling sites would be open at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends thereby providing multiple opportunities for those unable to accommodate a visit to the polls during their working hours. 

New York is one of only 13 states to lack some form of early voting. In 2016’s Presidential race, some 30 million Americans took advantage of early voting; none of them from New York. In fact, statistics show that with 60.2% of the 231 million eligible voters casting ballots in the 2016 election, an increase compared to the 58.6% in 2012, national turnout was still reduced by approximately 1.5% due to low turnout in three of the four most populous states; California, New York and Texas.

The six highest ranking states in terms of voter turnout, according to a report by Nonprofit VOTE which partners with nonprofits to assist people with participating in voting, all offered same day voting registration.

In addition, unlike voters across the country, residents of New York can only vote ahead of time by absentee ballot if they can offer proof that their profession, business, travel, school work, illness or disability prevents them from getting to the polls.  

The result of all these obstacles is that voter participation in New York is anemic. The antiquated system that exists due to an unwillingness on the part of the state legislature to adopt new procedures is hampering the rights of individuals from all walks of life who want to participate in the election process. 

In addition, counties want assurances that implementing new voting laws – which could cost an estimated $7 million - will not result in another unfunded state mandate and Governor Cuomo needs to provide that commitment. 

The early voting measure, which has been embraced by the state Assembly has unfortunately fallen victim to partisan politics in the state Senate. But modernization of the voting system in New York must be a bi-partisan priority to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. 

Voting is one of our most cherished rights as Americans, yet voter turnout is rarely what we hope it will be. Not everyone can get to the polls on Election Day or take time off from work to vote. 

The Governor’s early voting proposal, will make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process. 

Times have changed, and although some traditions and laws forged in the past rightfully remain in place, others must adapt to changes in societal values, priorities and circumstances. I support the Governor in this endeavor and encourage our state lawmakers to do the same. You should do the same. 

Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory was reelected to a fifth term as Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer at the Legislature’s organizational meeting, held Jan. 2 in Hauppauge. 

Article originally appeared on Smithtown Matters - Online Local News about Smithtown, Kings Park, St James, Nesconset, Commack, Hauppauge, Ft. Salonga (http://www.smithtownmatters.com/).
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