Allowing early voting in New York state is an intriguing idea on its face.
Voter turnout in the state is typically abysmal, and states that have early voting have seen some increase in turnout. Early voting would seem, at first blush, to be a more effective way to increase participation in our representative democracy than simply railing on and on about the importance of voting.
It's understandable, then, that the state Assembly has approved a bill that would create early voting in New York state starting the third Thursday before any general election and the second Thursday before any primary election, and concluding on the Thursday before the election. Voting hours would be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. County boards of election would be required to designate at least five polling places in each county, geographically located so as to provide all voters in each county with an equal opportunity to vote.
It's unfortunate that we have to turn out attention to how much participating in democracy will cost, but those are the times in which we live.
In an opinion piece submitted to The Post-Journal in January, Norman P. Green, Chautauqua County Democratic election commissioner, said he is in favor of early voting because any attempt to get more people voting is a good idea. He also said it would take an additional 770 staff hours at a personnel cost of $6,160 to staff five poll sites for early voting. Early voting envelopes, ballots and all other expenses bring the total for early voting for a Chautauqua County general election to about $10,000.
The Assembly's early voting bill makes sense in large metropolitan cities, but not so much in Chautauqua County. There typically aren't long lines on election day, so it's not as if those who want to vote aren't able to. In fact, Chautauqua County's voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 75 percent, much larger than the state's 46 percent.
The state Senate should either refuse to take action on the Assembly bill or vote the bill down. Increasing voter turnout is a worthy goal, but, in our view, early voting adds an unneeded cost to Upstate taxpayers. It solves a problem that, for the most part, we don't have in Chautauqua County. A more cost-effective solution should be found.