Opinion: League of Women Voters calls on adequate financing for early voting
Friday, February 14, 2020 - 7:29 am

This year’s Valentine’s Day marks the centenary of the national League of Women Voters. In celebration of this anniversary, the New York State League is calling on its members and friends to join in a Day of Action. Our goal is to ensure that early voting in this year’s three sets of elections is adequately funded.

New York voters first gained the option of early voting in the single election of 2019. The law mandates a nine day period of early voting for each election, which means that in 2020, the total number of voting days will rise from 10 to 30. Moreover the turnout in the “off-off-year” of 2019 was low. In this presidential year, the Board of Elections anticipates a record turnout: the number of voters is expected to rise from 3 to 8 million. More poll workers will have to be hired, and paid for more additional days, and more polling stations will likely be required during the early voting period if proposed reforms to the early voting law are passed as anticipated.

Despite the low turnout last year New York’s counties spent considerably more on early voting than the $25 million allocated by the State. The counties estimate that the cost of early voting in 2020 could surpass $200 million. Neither the Governor nor the State Legislature seem to grasp the magnitude of the problem. The current budget proposal allocates a mere $10 million for early voting, with an additional $15 million for new equipment and $16 million for the creation of an online voter registration portal. Our politicians need to be persuaded to provide the Board of Elections with a realistic level of support.

I urge all citizens to join with League in calling or emailing their representatives on or around Valentine’s Day to insist that the democratic process, and in particular early voting, be adequately financed. Early voting strengthens our democracy by facilitating broader participation. It should not impose a crushing burden on our counties.

Kathleen Stein, president

League of Women Voters of St. Lawrence County