Election Day Changes Unnecessary and Costly

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
The Assembly Majority is once again advancing an early voting bill through committees with a vote expected on the floor in the near future.

The Governor is also making his push for early voting in his budget this year.

While there are slight differences between the two proposals, both would result in another unfunded mandate and change our current system when it does not need to be changed.

Election Day is always the first Tuesday in November.

Currently, anyone who is registered to vote can do so at his or her polling place on Election Day or, if you are out of town on Election Day, you may vote by absentee ballot.

The Assembly bill would extend elections seven days prior to each special election, primary election and general election day.

Pursuant to the legislation, one polling site would have to be made available for every 50,000 registered voters with at least one site in each county and up to seven in each county.

The sites would need to be open for at least eight hours a day and at least one site would have to be open until 8 p.m. on two weekdays during this period.

Polls at the early voting sites would close the Sunday before Election Day.

The Governor’s proposal would extend this early voting period even further to 12 days.

In both cases, counties would be responsible for promoting poll sites and informing the public and paying for any associated costs.

Having personally run for office numerous times and having been involved in countless campaigns, I know that elections are very fluid and things can substantially change right up to the last moments before Election Day.

Candidates know that in the weeks before Election Day, they have to work hard to meet voters and get their message out because it is at this time when voters are most focused on the candidates and the election.

If Election Day becomes election days or even weeks, that will substantially change the dynamics of campaigns and elections.

Voter turnout for a candidate may be strong on the first day of election weeks because that candidate is very popular at that moment.

Suppose, however, later in the week, issues come to light that are problematic for that candidate.

Those who had voted early will have no chance to change their vote.

Having elections on one day as opposed to weeks works because everyone – candidates and voters – know when voters are going to the polls.

Candidates have up to that time to make their case to the voters.

Some have argued that restricting voting to one day is prohibitive especially for those who may not be otherwise available to vote on Election Day.

However, New York already has an effective system in place to deal with this issue, it is our absentee ballot system.

In New York, you can vote by absentee ballot if you are absent from your county (for any reason) on Election Day or you are unable to appear at the polls due to a temporary or permanent illness or disability.

Further, absentee ballots can be obtained as early as 30 days before an election and hand delivered to the county board of elections up to one day before an election.

An argument has also been made that early voting will increase voter turnout.

I have yet to see a study that shows this and, indeed, studies done in states that currently have early voting have concluded that early voting has not increased voter turnout.

Putting aside the question of how this would change the dynamics of elections, there is no doubt that changing Election Day to election weeks would be a substantial unfunded mandate on counties.

In the past, counties across the state have passed resolutions in opposition to this bill because of the costs that will be incurred by the counties.

For example, Oswego County officials estimate costs could exceed $175,000 each time an election is held.

This estimate includes money needed for poll sites, inspectors, transporting equipment, temporary workers and advertising.

If the Governor and the Assembly Majority believe this is such a great idea, at the very least the state should to fund the increased costs.

In general, I agree that we need to continue to examine our election laws to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote has that opportunity.

However, whenever proposals are made to substantially change our election system, we need to ensure that the negative consequences of the proposal don’t outweigh the supposed benefits.

Unfortunately, the bill for early voting does not pass that test.

As such, I voted against this measure in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee last week and plan to vote against this measure on the floor.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

13 Comments

  1. Election Day should be a national holiday.

    Holding elections on a Tuesday does have the effect of suppressing the vote.

    All citizens should be automatically registered to vote.

    Voters should receive a paper receipt to guard against rigging.

    [seriously, with the Diebold controversy and the fiasco with machines especially around here … one time I “voted” recently, an election worker was trying to unjam the machine and assured me my vote would eventually be counted, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the integrity of our voting.]

    Some system like early voting should exist (perhaps Barclay is right that the specific form under debate is flawed) to ensure the highest possible turnout (like, there might be obstacles to voting for certain individual voters even if Election Day was on a weekend or holiday … there is no democratic reason whatsoever to hold elections on Tuesdays during the hustle and bustle of the work week, when most people are busiest.)

  2. “In general, I agree that we need to continue to examine our election laws to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote has that opportunity.”
    SATURDAY VOTING!!!!!!!!!

  3. “Those who had voted early will have no chance to change their vote.”
    “A CARD LAID, IS A CARD PLAYED”.
    How about some of that good, old “republican personal responsibility”?

  4. “President Trump’s top intelligence advisor has a warning about November’s elections: The Russians are coming again, and this time it may be more than just trying to sway public opinion. A parade of officials and experts before Congress had a warning too: Our voting systems are alarmingly vulnerable to foreign attack. Although no evidence has surfaced to indicate Russian hackers succeeded in directly tinkering with votes in 2016, many say the United States can’t count on that going forward — and not nearly enough is being done to prevent it.”

  5. New York has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout in the nation.We are also one of the last holdouts to having early voting and an easier process of registration. Limiting voting to Tuesdays is an outmoded idea and should be changed. Sen. Barkley generously tells us that absentee ballots may be applied for 30 days in advance for several reasons, including temporary or permanent illness. Don’t know about you, but I never seem to know even a few days in advance if I will be ill on election day. Republicans are always afraid of opening up opportunities to vote to more people. They have more chances of winning when the voter turnout is reduced.

  6. Sorry ariel and anonymous, but as I see it, almost just as many people work on Saturday as any other day, especially in the retail and service industry such as bars and resturants and so forth.
    Sure, having election day be a “national holiday” would probably increase voter turnout somewhat, but that could benefit either party. Besides, many of the people who typically don’t vote probably wouldn’t vote on Saturday either. They don’t vote for a variety of other reasons than just because it’s on a Tuesday.
    Furthermore, who is supposed to foot the bill for holiday pay if that was the case? Couldn’t that be considered “interference in an election” as well to have local and state workers being paid “holiday pay” to go cast a vote? Or, would you just expect them to take the day off WITHOUT PAY, and hope they don’t mind a days lost income? And what about poor Maggie…what if she becomes ill on Tuesday and ends up in the hospital on Saturday? She may have to wait until Sunday to get treatment or a perscription. Starting to see the big picture yet?

  7. Wizard, your comments are always so full of love and understanding.

    Re: “almost just as many people work on Saturday as any other day” … but not as many as Monday through Friday.

    Re: “many of the people who typically don’t vote probably wouldn’t vote on Saturday either” … perhaps, perhaps not, let’s do it and find out.

    Re: “who is supposed to foot the bill for holiday pay if that was the case?” … these are really your serious concerns? Democracy isn’t more important?

    You seems to get some kind of satisfaction out of consistently providing the view of the typical right-wing curmudgeon.

    As far as the big picture … no, actually I for one do not find your comments illuminating in any way.

    Voter turnout in the United States is far lower than other democracies … yet many Americans like to declare the country the “freest” and “most democratic” place on Earth, facts notwithstanding.

    All we’re doing is looking at the world and trying to learn what they do to bring more people into the political process: national holiday or weekend or automatic adult citizen registration, etc.

    There are no other countries who do what the United States does: hold elections on Tuesdays … which we’ve been doing since the 19th century … something to do with farmers travelling to polling places on horseback … not exactly a logical arrangement in the year 2018.

  8. “Automatic Adult Citizen Registration”?

    Hmm…I don’t really have a problem with that. Just give someone a “National Voter ID card” when they apply for a Social Security Card. If they already have a SS card, just go pick up your “National Voter ID card” at the same place. After all, if it should be a “NATIONAL ELECTION HOLIDAY”, you should have a “NATIONAL VOTER ID CARD” to go along with it. Any objections?

  9. National Voter ID Card……Issued by the State of residency (NY, CA, TX, etc.) using the same criteria required to obtain an official Social Security card. Card must also include photo, and current address including county. (After all, you can’t really expect people who live in Oswego to be able to vote in local elections in Watertown, and the same for any other political race up to POTUS.)
    If you need a photo for a drivers license, the same should certainly apply here, along with similar DMV type information And if you still need a birth certificate for a SS card, you must be able to provide one. All this could be done in about the same amount of time it takes to renew a drivers license with todays technology and entered into state database records.

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