Our state is unique in its struggle to take even the smallest steps forward.
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia offer some sort of early-voting convenience for constituents, yet even with something as politically neutral as finding a way to get more people to vote, New York’s Legislature can’t agree on a way to get it done without costing the taxpayers money.
New York had the third-lowest voter turnout in the nation this past November, so there is some impetus for trying to make things easier on the voters to boost turnout.
Early voting has many different incarnations across the country. Some states allow voting to begin as long as 45 days before the election before concluding the Thursday or Friday before Election Day.
Some states have established satellite voting locations where you can cast a vote in person before Election Day. Others allow you to stop by your local county election office to cast your vote on a paper ballot. Others have adopted no-excuse absentee voting where you can mail in your vote without explanation.
The current bill proposed by New York’s Democrats to allow early voting is not very cost-effective:
u Registered voters could begin voting 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary or special election.
u Each county would be required to have at least five early voting locations open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, including Saturdays and Sundays.
u Votes cast during the early voting period would be counted at the close of polls Election Day and be included in the election night tally.
Like many of our legislators, we worry about the extra expense and who would be paying for staffing those polling places, especially since some studies of early voting show no definitive increase in voter turnout because of the convenience.
In one study conducted with “no excuse” absentee ballots, stamped envelopes were provided to some voters and ballots without stamps to others. The percentage of ballots returned was almost identical.
We do believe some sort of early-voting measure should be on the books. After all, this is the 21st century, in which we can do about anything with our phones except vote.
Part of us still enjoys the process of showing up at the polling place on Election Day to do our duty as a citizen.
It still makes us feel good and we walk a little taller when we leave.
But having the convenience of early voting, especially for voters who might have to battle city crowds in other parts of the state, makes sense for the future.
Allowing citizens to vote at their town halls or county buildings could reduce the expense considerably. Adopting “no excuse” absentee balloting would seem like the perfect first step, a no-brainer. But oddly, when legislation was proposed for just that in 2009, it was defeated.
As we mentioned earlier, this is New York and nothing comes easy.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Robert Sledd.