Making it convenient for every citizen to cast a vote is a key to the success of our democratic system of government.
Thirty-seven states have adopted some form of early voting to increase voter turnout and ensure that as few people as possible who want to vote are unable to do so.
The worst arrangement is to have voting on one day only, when any conflict, whether it’s a sick child or a busy day at work, can end up depriving you of your right to vote.
But that is what New York has — voting allowed only on Election Day, with no same-day registration and with outdated absentee rules that require voters to explain why they will be outside their home districts on Election Day.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to improve the situation by pushing the Legislature to pass an early voting bill and by providing $7 million in his executive budget to pay for it.
Counties will have to make the changes if the bills pass, and Saratoga County supervisors have already come out against them. Supervisors objected to added costs, calling it “another unfunded mandate.” But since Cuomo has budgeted money to pay for early voting, it would actually be a funded mandate.
Cuomo’s proposal would require counties to open one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents, and to schedule polling hours for the 12 days before Election Day. Polling sites would be determined by the bipartisan county boards of elections. In Warren County, for instance, with about 65,000 people, one of the two sites could easily be the county clerk’s office, which would hold down costs.
The counties don’t get to make this decision; the Legislature does. But we’re troubled anytime politicians fail to support the promotion and protection of our voting system. Voting should be both as convenient as possible for citizens and as secure as possible against outside tampering, and our political representatives should be pushing for both of those goals.
Cuomo also wants automatic voter registration, a process other states have put in place, in which people who register with other state agencies can, if they choose, have their information used to register to vote as well. This can be done through the NY Department of Motor Vehicles now, but not through other agencies.
He also wants same-day voter registration, also allowed in multiple other states. New York has various, confusing voter registration deadlines in place now, which can easily shut out first-time voters from participating in the political process. Same-day registration would allow voters to register and vote on the same day.
Simplifying voting, making it convenient and keeping it secure should be our goal, here and across the country. In too many places, we have seen partisan efforts to restrict voting by putting requirements in place that not every citizen can meet. Some of these laws, such as one in North Carolina, have been thrown out by the courts as having been “enacted with racially discriminatory effect.”
Saratoga County supervisors have not made a cogent case against early voting. If they can’t do that, they will have no reason to complain if the Legislature does pass the measures Cuomo has proposed.
The expansion of voting — to people who do not own property, to women, to people of color — has advanced as our country has become more just and equitable. That process has not ended — and it can always slide backward — so each state has to work to ensure that every eligible citizen has every opportunity to get to the polls.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Bob Tatko, Carol Merchant and Eric Mondschein.