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COLUMN: Changes to Election Day unnecessary and costly

— Some have argued that restricting voting to one day is prohibitive especially for those who may not be otherwise available to vote on Election Day. However, New York already has an effective system in place to deal with this issue--it is our absentee ballot system. In New York, you can vote by absentee ballot if you are absent from your county (for any reason) on Election Day or you are unable to appear at the polls due to a temporary or permanent illness or disability. Further, absentee ballots can be obtained as early as 30 days before an election.

An argument has also been made that early voting will increase voter turnout. I have yet to see a study that shows this and, indeed, studies done in states that currently have early voting have concluded that early voting has not increased voter turnout.

Putting aside the question of how this would change the dynamics of elections, there is no doubt that changing Election Day to Election Weeks would be a substantial unfunded mandate on counties. At least 25 counties have already passed resolutions in opposition to this bill because of the costs that will be incurred by the counties. In Oswego County, for example, elections commissioners estimate costs of early voting could be as much as $150,000 each time an election is held. In Jefferson County, lawmakers estimate costs around $125,000. In Onondaga County, costs are estimated to increase at least $100,000. If the state believes this is such a great idea, at the very least we should put our money where our mouth is and agree to fund the increased costs that will result from an extended voting period.

In general, I agree that we need to continue to examine our election laws to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote has that opportunity. However, whenever proposals are made to substantially change our election system that has been in place for generations, we need to take a hard look at what is being proposed to ensure that the benefits are as advertised and the negative consequences of the proposal don't outweigh the benefits. Unfortunately, the bill for early voting that passed the Assembly this week does not pass that test.

Assemblyman Will Barclay represents residents of Assembly District 120, which includes Lysander. He can be reached by mail at 200 North Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by phone (598-5185).

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