State Can Find Money For Voting Reform

Roughly 38 percent of Chautauqua County’s registered voters participated in the 2017 election — and that number was higher than usual.

So, it is hard to argue that voting reforms suggested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo aren’t good ideas worthy of discussion. Among items in the governor’s Democracy Agenda are early voting that offers voters access to a poll site for 12 days leading up to Election Day; an automatic voter registration system that automatically sends voters’ information to the Board of Elections and eliminates a trip to register at the Motor Vehicles Bureau; and same-day voter registration.

New York state should do all it can to make it as easy as possible for people to vote. There is just one problem — who pays? Cuomo’s budget pegs the cost at a little more than $6 million. Counties argue the voting reforms are an unfunded mandate from the state that will squeeze other things out of their budgets as they try to get under the 2 percent tax cap. The state proposes raising taxes and fees on everything under the sun to balance its budget.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday a 30-day budget amendment that would make $7 million available for voting reforms that include early voting. We commend Cuomo for finding state money for something about which he feels strongly, but we’re not sure new money is really needed. The state could consider scaling back its $420 million tax credit program for movies and television production. Cutting $20 million from the program would pay the statewide cost of voting reforms for nearly three years. The governor’s ill-fated I Love NY highway signs — installed for $8.1 million and now being removed after a spat with the federal government — also could have paid for some of these voting reforms. The state can find money for voting reforms without spending new money.