Voters in this year’s local elections don’t have to wait until Election Day to cast their ballots. For the first time, early voting is an option in Onondaga County and throughout the state, after New York lawmakers passed it into law earlier this year.
Elections that don’t include Presidential or Congressional races have historically had poor turnout. Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny finds it hard to predict how much this will help.
"It is the first year and this is one of our lowest turnout years in our cycle. But what we have seen in other states is that over time, early voting increases its usage tremendously. Wherever they start off at, every year it grows in popularity, so we're hoping that it'll do that [here]."
The increase in number of days to vote presented some logistic changes for the Board of Elections. Czarny says he has not had trouble finding workers to staff the nine days the polls will be open; he has a bigger problem staffing Election Day, November 5th. Electronic Poll Books will also be instituted, which for him is ‘about time.’
"The electronic pollbooks got in place because of early voting, but this is something that 38 other states already do... We were kinda behind the times. This will eventually save the Board of Elections money because we won't have to print out regular paper pollbooks, we'll be able to operate our polls at places with less staff, and it'll be more efficient for voters."
One value of having the early voting in place this year is it gives the Boards of Elections a chance to make any adjustments needed before the 2020 presidential elections.
"We're going to see a huge increase in turnout and we want to get all the kinks out this year. During a presidential election you're going to see a lot of usage, during the primary and during the general election, of early voting as people want to avoid the long lines on Election Day and be able to vote at a time of their own choosing."
Czarny explains there will be six polling sites for early voting; three at town halls in Clay, Dewitt, and Van Buren. There will also be sites at the Lafayette Firehouse, and in Syracuse at Magnarelli Community Center and Southwest Community Center. Early voting runs every day starting this Saturday through Sunday, November 3rd. Hours change each day so check out ongov.net/elections for details.