ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – For the first time, New York’s registered voters were afforded a nine day early voting period ahead of the November 5 election. The 58 County Boards of Elections opened a total of 248 early voting sites.
“I think it is more than fair to say Early Voting, by and large, went very smoothly,” said Robert Brehm, Co-Executive Director of the State Board. “More than 256,000 people voted, and the voters seemed to like the convenience of not having to vote on just the one day. Waiting times were short or non-existent in most places. Even in the few places where there were minor hiccups, voters were overwhelmingly favorable.”
“Statewide turnout, unofficially, is approximately 1.9% over the nine days,” said Todd Valentine, the agency’s other Co-Executive Director. “With nothing to compare it to, we don’t know yet if that is high or low. After the election we will get together with our local commissioners, vendors and other stakeholders and review everything. We’ll look at what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what adjustments need to be made to improve the experience and what if any recommendations we may want to make to state lawmakers.”
The Early Voting Period started on Saturday, October 26 and ran through Sunday, November 3. During the first weekend unofficial results showed a little over 50,000 people voted on mostly local offices and Justices of the Supreme Court.
A daily average of slightly more than 26,500 people availed themselves of the opportunity to vote early for the first time in New York State’s history. New York City averaged about 6,700 voters per day and unofficial turnout was 1.14%.
Outside New York City, unofficial turnout was approximately 2.4%. The final Sunday was a big day with totals of:
- Albany 795
- Dutchess 1,215
- Monroe 2,033
- Nassau 5,426
- Onondaga 1,586
- Orange 984
- Rockland 1,394
- Suffolk 3,079
- Ulster 1,146
- Westchester 4,158
- New York City 12,103
“It’s difficult to overstate the scale of the tasks that have been placed before us,” added Robert Brehm. “There has never been a year like this one with the number of changes to the Election Law. Even though the year before the Presidential election is traditionally the lowest turnout year – in 2015 it was 17.33% and in 2011 it was 19.9% – the local Elections Commissioners deserve tremendous credit for their dedication and diligence. The true test will come in 2020, but I like to think we have laid a good foundation that we can build on.”
Early Voting was passed by the State Legislature for the first time on January 24, 2019 to be implemented for the 2019 General Election. The legislation required one early voting site per whole increment of 50,000 voters with at least one per county.
In addition, lawmakers authorized the use of electronic poll books for use in New York, a critical element to ensure voters can only vote once during early voting.
Lastly, two pots of money were appropriated during the state budget to assist local counties to pay for the mandates associated with early voting. One fund of $10 million will be used for capital purchases such as e-poll books and on-demand ballot printers and the second fund of $14 million, known as Aid-to-Localities money, will be used for services associated with implementing early voting such as increased training for poll workers and increased wages for inspectors for nine days of early voting.
The State Board had to create a testing regimen and certify e-poll books for the first time with no federal and few other state standards to go by. Ultimately three vendors were approved for sale in New York and counties moved quickly to procure the supplies they needed. Local Elections Commissioners worked diligently to ensure they had enough poll sites, poll workers and equipment to conduct nine days of early voting.
In 2020, there will be 27 days of early voting overall, nine each for the Presidential Primary, April 28, the State & Federal Primary, June 23, and the General Election, November 3.