Early voting starts on Saturday
TRI-COUNTY AREA--With early voting now a reality in New York, election officials in Yates, Steuben and Schuyler Counties are working to make sure the county's first time goes as smoothly as possible for voters.
"This is brand new for New York state elections. So we are all busy writing procedures and getting them approved by the state and getting ready to experience the unknown," said Robert F. Brechko, Democratic commissioner for the Yates County Board of Elections.
Until this year, election day in New York was only held Nov. 5 with certain exceptions.
"It's always good to have more opportunity to vote, you don't want to limit the voters casting ballots," said Brechko.
He added he was eager to see what new voting patterns will form with the extra days to vote now available.
"If it just shifts voters to early voting and less on the actual day then maybe it's not an improvement, but we can only wait and see. Maybe people will only come on the first day of early voting, or the last day. Hard to say," Brechko said.
While early voting gives residents more options, it may not actually translate into more votes cast.
"I am not sure if it will increase voting...We have very good turnout upstate versus down in (New York City). We had 85 percent of our voters vote in the 2008 election and other places don't even get close. We have always had good turnout in Presidential years, and last year was a big increase for the midterm elections. So (early voting) is not as critical (here) as it would be in downstate," Brechko said.
To aid with the early voting, Brechko said the county switched over to electronic poll books and on-demand ballot printers to get voters in and out faster.
"We've been doing training and it's amazing how quick it goes. We were fortunate with a state grant and a small primary to do the electronic poll books, which should be a better experience for everyone involved," Brechko said.
Steuben County addressed concerns over ballot security in a press release that states, "Standards for protecting ballots and memory cards are extensive. A daily audit will be required to establish and ensure that records of both blank and cast ballots match the number of voters that voted daily."
In Schuyler County Carolyn Elkins, Democratic county commissioner for the Schuyler County Board of Elections, said election inspectors are hard at work getting ready for extended voting.
"So far it's gone pretty well, it was easy to find the site and the inspectors are happy to work. I think the most time consuming is making sure that we have the proper security measures for the ballots, making sure voting machines are secure at the end of the night. But I think we have done pretty well with that," said Elkins.
Despite the extra work, Elkins said anything that may encourage more voter participation is inherently worth it.
Another change to New York state voting this year is that residents who have moved into a new county from within New York will be able to vote without registering to vote in the new county so long as they have lived there 30 days.
"The vote will count but by affidavit, so it counts for the new county," Brechko said.
He added officials must then verify the voter was indeed registered with another county in New York and as such affidavits will not be counted until absentee ballots are counted Nov. 19. Ballots cast during early voting will be counted Nov. 5.
"We always encourage people to go out and vote, sometimes one vote actually is the difference so every vote counts," Elkins said.
Yates County early voting will take place at 417 Liberty St., Penn Yan from Oct. 26-Nov. 3. Hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Steuben County early voting will take place at the New Steuben County Annex Building located at 20 E. Morris St., Bath from Oct. 26-Nov. 3. Hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Schuyler County early voting will take place at the County Courthouse Building located at 105 Ninth St., Watkins Glen from Oct. 26-Nov. 3. Hours are Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.