Cities and towns are bracing for November as they gear up to offer early voting for the first time. “Right now, our biggest thing is the money,” said Elizabeth Camara, chair of the Fall River board of election commissioners. Her board is currently working to get the necessary budget approvals to pay for the staffing required for early voting. She is still working out how much the early voting process will cost Fall River, but estimates a regular election day costs the city between $60,000 and $70,000. “It’s still hard to say because we haven’t gotten anything in place. The biggest expense is the staff,” Camara said. Small and mid-sized towns such as Fall River, Quincy, and New Bedford are grappling with a unique problem: how to make their stretched budgets go even further, to comply with a new state law that requires early voting be made available.
The mandate, passed in 2014, requires cities and towns to make it possible for voters to cast ballots between 11 business days before the election, and two business days before the election. It also requires that voters can go to any location within city limits to cast a ballot, as well mandating early voting by mail. But the specifics beyond that are still being ironed out by the secretary of state’s office. “I’m glad it’s November, not September, so we can have more time to think on this,” Camara said with a laugh.
How exactly the early voting will be conducted is largely left up to each municipality.
Yale University political science professor Eitan Hersh says that municipalities are likely to be “overwhelmed,” especially in a presidential election year. “Most communities aren’t going to do anything other than keep town hall office open, so the most likely outcome is that people won’t take advantage of early voting,” he said. Hersh has been an outspoken critic of the state’s implementation of early voting, specifically taking aim at Sec. of State Bill Galvin for not providing clearer leadership about how it should be implemented.
Full Article: Cities and towns fret over costs of early voting.