State Senate, Assembly Eye Election Reform

MAYVILLE — Last week, the New York Senate and Assembly passed a series of voting reform measures to possibly make it easier for residents to vote and to increase voter participation.

Whether this will happen or not is, obviously, still unknown. However, there are other unknowns as well like how much additional funding will some of the new voting reforms cost county governments throughout the state.

One of the measures passed would allow voters to cast a ballot early, up to 10 days before an election. Gov. Andrew Cuomo must sign the measure before it becomes law and he has said he supports early voting.

Under the legislation, each county would be required to provide a set amount of early voting hours over the course of the nine-day period before the election, but each county would have the flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of its residents. Each county would have to provide early voting polling sites, the number of which will be based on registered voters.

So how much will this new voting reform cost county taxpayers? The answer is still unknown, said Brian Abram, Chautauqua County Republican election commissioner.

“As the plan comes into place, we will have a better understanding what we will be facing. There are still a few variables to know and then we will have to figure out the logistics,” Abram said.

Abram said he will be meeting with Norm Green, Chautauqua County Democratic election commissioner, to evaluate how the new law will impact the county and then they will determine what needs to be done.

“It is tough to project at this point. Its not even signed into law yet,” Abram said. “After we meet, we will see what opportunities we have and how we will handle it.”

Another election reformed passed by the state Legislature that will impact Chautauqua County is the moving of the state primary voting day from September to June so it takes place on the same day as federal primaries. Supporters of the new law have said combining the two primaries, which is how it’s scheduled in every other state, will be more convenient for voters and save millions of dollars statewide. The provision will also compel candidates to begin the process of running for office earlier than in past years.

“People running for office don’t have the luxury to sit around until May. Before, you could handout petitions in June and by mid-July they were done,” Abram said. “Now it looks like February we will have to distribute petitions. Candidates for 2019 will have to make their decision very soon.”

Abram said the projected date for the Chautauqua County Board of Elections to provide petitions to hopeful candidates is Feb. 26. He projected then that petitions would need to be returned to board of elections officials by the first week of April. In the past, the petition signing process would start in June and finish in July for the September primary.

“The deadline for petitions and getting them into the hands of committee members … it is going to take organization and it is going to take some time,” he said. “This year is a different schedule. Things have been pushed up.”