On paper, it looks pretty simple. Albany legislators are proposing the state join 32 other states in allowing voters to cast their ballots in person a week or two early. Proponents say more opportunity to vote equals more votes. More votes means increasing the voice of the state’s voters. It’s not as if the state is outstanding in this regard, they say. New York had the country’s 44th-lowest voter turnout in 2012. The turnout nationwide was 58 percent. In Orange and Ulster counties, it was 72 percent and in Sullivan 60 percent. That was a presidential election year; in off-presidential election cycles, local voter turnout drops into the mid-30s or low-40s percent range. So why not try early voting, the state’s Democrat-dominated Assembly asks. Not so fast, members of the Republican-dominated Senate say.
And when it comes to the opinions of those who are closest to the local action — Republican and Democrat election commissioners — party affiliation has little impact on opinion. And some alternative proposals might ring a few cross-party chimes.
Early voting gains steam
Early voting is hardly a radical approach to election reform: 32 states now allow voters to cast their ballots personally — as opposed to absentee balloting — as early as one or two weeks before Election Day. Some states even allow weekend voting.
In January, a presidential commission on elections administration recommended, among other things, the expansion of voting before Election Day, either by mail or in-person voting.