State, local officials call on state to pay for early voting

    How early voting is being paid for is raising concerns among local and state leaders. (WHAM photo)

    Monroe County, N.Y. (WHAM) - In November, voters will have eight days before Election Day to get to the polls. It's part a voting reform bill passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 24.

    Concerns about how early voting will be funded is growing among local leaders. Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is joining other county leaders in calling on the state to pay.

    As a former election poll worker, Arduinne “Ardi” Wazelle takes the value of voting to heart.

    “It's one of the best, few privileges that doesn’t cost them anything,” Wazelle said.

    Opening the polls early will cost the state millions of dollars. This year, county leaders worry that added cost could fall on them.

    Assemblywoman Jamie Romeo (D-136th District) said that was one of the biggest concerns the legislature had.

    “Counties would have to have additional polling sites,” said Romeo. “I think Monroe County would have to have seven polling sites around the county. That takes a lot of infrastructure, a lot of personnel, a lot of cost that we have to make sure that we’re not hurdling that onto the taxpayers here locally.”

    New York has held its primary for federal offices on June 26, while the primary for state and local offices is September 13.

    According to lawmakers, holding the federal, state and local primaries on the same day will save the state money. The savings will be used to offset the costs of early voting. The problem is there is no federal primary this year, so the funding to pay for the eight extra days would have to come from somewhere else.

    The Livingston County Board of Elections Commissioners David DiPasquale and Becky Schroeder said having one primary day would save the county $25,000. The expectation is that money will help pay for early voting.

    State Sen. Rich Funke supported early voting with the caveat the state pays for it.

    Assemblywoman Romeo said the legislature is fighting it put the money in the State Budget.

    “I think there are some real concerns with the cost, but what we’re trying to achieve is more people participating in democracy, that’s the most important part at the end of the day,” she said.

    Wazelle hopes the state finds a way to pay for the extra days.

    “This is New York State,” Wazelle said. “This is where we live, and this is what we're voting for and they're the ones who should fund it.”

    Other bills passed as part of voting reform include allowing 16 and 17-year old pre-registration, so when they turn 18 they can automatically be enrolled to vote.

    Universal Transfer of Registration is also part of the new law. When voters move within the state, they won't have to re-register. Additional bills can be found here.

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