It is more important than ever for Leagues to develop good working relationships with their county board of elections!
After having lobbied for election law reform for so many years, the LWVNY was extremely pleased when the legislators passed and Governor Cuomo signed the bills into law, including early voting which will take place for the first time before the general election on Nov. 5. However, as of now this is an unfunded mandate. As the governor did not include money for it in his addendum to the budget, it is up to the NY Senate and Assembly to include it in the budget. Whether money is included (it is estimated that $25,000,000 is needed to cover the cost which includes purchase of electronic poll books hiring of additional poll workers, training of workers, cost of additional days for poll sites and security) or not, there WILL BE early voting beginning on Oct. 27. Of course, having funds put in the budget for the counties will make it easier as the large counties downstate cannot even comprehend how this can be done without electronic poll books, but even if they get the necessary money, this is going to be complicated. As of right now, there is confusion and uncertainty at the board of Elections.
It is imperative that our county board of elections know that our Leagues will be working with them and the public to make the roll out of early voting go as smooth as possible. At the beginning of this month Leagues received a packet on voting reform and an attached form to send back. I want to commend the LWVNYC who has weekly contact with their BOE and the LWV of Cooperstown Area and and the members in Orange County who had phone conversations with their commissioners. I do know that LWV of Suffolk County has had phone contact and is working on getting a date for meeting. All commissioners contacted so far have indicated they are uncertain how early voting can be successfully accomplished this year and are waiting for directions from the state. As of now on the NY Board of Elections webpage does not even indicate the dates for early voting for the general election.
What can our Leagues accomplish in a meeting with their Board of Elections? Beginning the conversation is important. The commissioners know that the LWVNY has lobbied for early voting. They need to know we are lobbying for the funding and would also advocate for those things to make the transition easier for them. In addition they need to realize that we will be working diligently to educate the public with dates, times and designated poll sites. Years ago, when our lever voting machines needed to be replaced, the LWVNY lobbied strongly for the paper ballot optical (PBO) scanner. Many county Board of Elections were skeptical of our choice. Once the PBOs were selected, Leagues throughout the state educated the public. Although there were complaints in the first years, the transition did go smoothly and our choice of PBOs have been validated.
The same can happen with early voting. Not having the funding yet makes it more complicated as does the very short time frame. However, this is even more reason why we need to work together. Contact your board of elections and email the report to LWVNY. We will share with other Leagues. Also share what and how your League is planning to educate the public. This year, the LWV of Cortland already has put together a presentation on 2019 election reforms. We have the reputation as being the experts. We are the gold standard. We can and will maintain our standard this year. It will require a lot of work but we are up to the challenge. Together we can do so much!