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CNY State Delegation Ready To Force Onondaga County To Add Early Voting Sites

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

Central New York’s delegation of state lawmakers is stepping up pressure on Onondaga County elections officials to add more early voting sites.  The county has had six sites for the past two years, and Senator John Mannion says that leaves large areas of the county without reasonable access.

"How did we end up with the number 6? Well, it's the absolute minimum number of early voting sites in Onondaga County as required by law.  In fact, Onondaga County has the fewest early voting sites of any of the state's large counties."

Mannion says last year, there were long lines and long waits, proving that the option was popular.  Assemblymember Al Stirpe says he and his wife experienced it firsthand when they voted in Dewitt.

"It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to vote.  During that period, we saw people pull up, look at the line, turn around and leave.  Hopefully they went somewhere else and voted, or voted on election day, but you don't know that for sure."

The lawmakers gathered at Onondaga Communty College Thursday, one of four proposed new polling sites in the county, which would bring the total to 10.  Senator Rachel May says it makes sense.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
This map shows existing early voting sites and four proposed addiotional sites.

"There are not only a lot of people here on campus who could take advantage of it, but a lot of people drive right past this campus on their commute, and would be able to stop here and vote, as well."

Both elections commissioners need to agree on and approve the sites.  Republican Commissioner Michele Sardo has previously refused to add OCC or other sites beyond the minimum required by law.  Assemblymember Pam Hunter couldn't attend the press conference, but also supports adding more early voting sites.  In a release, she says having the minimum number of sites, the county is undermining the intent of the law. 

County Legislator Mary Kuhn is working on a resolution urging commissioners to act.  She says voting should not be a partisan issue. 

"We should be seizing this moment of tremendous voter participation and interest in the electoral process and further supporting it, shoring up the infrastructure that enabled it with early voting and expanded to absentee voting."

If commissioners don’t act on their own, the state delegation says its ready to move legislation to the floor of both chambers requiring the additional sites.  Others include Lysander Town hall, Cicero Town Hall, and the Civic Center downtown.  Those would complement existing sites in DeWitt, LaFayette, Clay, Camillus, and the Magnarelli Community Center on the city’s north side.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.