ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR/NEWS10) — Early voting has begun, running from Saturday, June 12 through June 20. New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday that her office will make its Election Protection Hotline available throughout the state’s early voting period and for the upcoming June 22 primary election.
Voters who experience problems should call (800) 771-7755. The hotline is available to troubleshoot and resolve a range of issues encountered by voters, including voting by absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 crisis or in-person at their polling place.
Early voting did not come without controversy here in the Capital Region. After they were sued by James’s Office, Rensselaer County’s Board of Elections was ordered by a judge to add another early voting site that’s more accessible to low-income residents of Troy’s high-density areas.
Instead, the BOE appealed the decision and stuck with its original polling plan.
The Office of the Attorney General also created a guide to address frequently asked questions.
Turnout is generally far lower for primaries than it is for general elections. Officials say that’s because local primaries don’t get extensive media coverage, and because in a closed primary system, you have a be a registered member of the Democrat or Republican parties to vote.
“Unfortunately, primaries have always been—no matter whether we had early voting or absentee voting or Election Day—it’s always been a low turnout election,” said Onondaga County, Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny. Czarny also said he wasn’t surprised by the low turnout. “We’ve already had a couple dozen of people come out to vote in the first 10 minutes across the county. Obviously, that’s low, but there’s not many people eligible to vote,” he said.
Despite this low turnout, the county wanted to make sure those who did qualify to vote in the primaries had every opportunity to do so. Czarny said that offering early voting is the best way to increase voter turnout. “I think early voting—and offering a three-stream electoral model, where you have early voting and ample use of absentees, and, of course, election day—is the healthiest way to run an election,” he said.
Voters said having the option to vote early, especially on the weekend, is not only convenient, but more practical. “It’s everybody’s duty to vote if you care about who’s leading our community,” said Syracuse voter Susan Ketter.