When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week proposed reforms to make voting easier in New York state, he left something out: The cost, and how the additional expenses of maintaining early-voting sites would be covered. Cuomo’s proposal includes allowing people to vote before Election Day, no-excuse absentee voting, same-day registration and automatic voter registration — all ideas that would require approval from the Legislature, and in some instances would require amending the state constitution. They are all, however, items that progressives believe would get more people to vote. “We should make voting easier, not harder,” Cuomo said in his annual State of the State address in Albany on Wednesday.
The voting reforms were among a number of proposals that Cuomo put forth to contrast his own progressive positions with what’s happening at the federal level, where the most prominent recent voter initiative has been a panel — disbanded on Thursday — that was mulling ways to combat voter fraud, a problem that election experts believe is minimal.
But while the state Legislature can change voting laws, election costs are borne by New York’s counties, which already have a number of grievances with the state over expenses forced on them by the state without reimbursement — the costly “unfunded mandates” county leaders often cite.
“I haven’t costed it out yet, but it is going to be a massive new unfunded mandate,” said Roger Schiera, Saratoga County’s Republican elections commissioner. Each county in the state has two commissioners, one from each of the major political parties, who administer the county election system.