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Early Voting Expansion Bill Introduced

Three early voting sites in Chautauqua County may not be enough, according to legislation introduced in the state Assembly.

Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal, D-Queens, recently introduced A.11165 in the Assembly to increase early voting places during presidential election years.

The bill doesn’t yet have corresponding legislation in the state Senate. Rosenthal’s proposal would increase the required number of early voting sites from one for every 50,000 voters to one for every 15,000 voters.

“In recent years, the legislature has taken crucial steps to affirm this belief and strengthen voter protections for all New Yorkers. This included providing for early voting in our state. However, as recent elections have shown, the system is far from perfect. Voters waited for several hours to cast their ballot in the most recent presidential election at early voting sites,” Rosenthal wrote. “In the densely populated counties of New York City, this presented a voter access and safety issue amidst a pandemic.”

The legislation doesn’t attempt to quantify the cost for the early voting expansion, saying simply that the cost for state and local governments is yet to be determined.

Roughly 18% of Chautauqua County’s 79,655 registered voters took advantage of early voting this year at the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood, Chautauqua County Fairground in Dunkirk and at the Board of Elections offices in Mayville.

The proposed presidentail election early voting expansion bill isn’t the only elections bill introduced in December. Proposed legislation includes:

¯ A.11167, also proposed by Rosenthal, would allow for immediate counting of absentee ballots. “As absentee voting has been utilized in record numbers due to the pandemic, and the potential for this system to become a permanent fixture in New York state, measures must be implemented to count these ballots in a secure and timely manner. Several states have allowed for immediate canvassing of absentee ballots, a process that has become more important than ever. This bill would allow for New York to take steps towards a modern and efficient electoral system,” Rosenthal wrote in his legislative justification.

¯ A.11166, sponsored by Jonathan Jacobson, D-Newburgh, to allow for a separate line to polling places for those with disabilities. When polling places are open, Jacobson proposes having a separate line for entrance to the polling place for those disabilities with seating to be provided for each person.

“Included in the lines were those with disabilities who had difficulty standing for such long periods of time,” Jacobson wrote. “There was also confusion at the poll sites whether a separate line for those with disabilities could be formed and how to avoid problems with those on the main line who have patiently waited.”

¯ A.11168, sponsored by Robert Carroll, D-Brooklyn, which allows absentee ballots to be validated and canvassed before the close of polls on Election Day.

¯ A.11163, sponsored by Mark Johns, R-Webster, to establish the general election campaign financing opt-in system to provide public funds to certain candidates. “However, too many elections are based on big money and special interests. This bill would give opportunity for people who do not have wealthy donors the chance to run for elected office and get their message out. It is important that our government leaders are elected to office without being beholden to corporate donors and special interest. This bill would certainly be a step in the right direction of removing money from our political elections,” Johns wrote in his legislative justification.

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