OSWEGO — Amid state-wide controversy surrounding the implementation of swift voting reform policies instituted by state leaders earlier this year, Oswego County Board of Elections officials said they feel “confident” coming into the approaching election season.
At the start of the year’s legislative term in January, downstate Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — the first woman appointed to lead the state Senate — oversaw the passage of a multitude of bills set to overhaul state electoral processes.
Measures such as early voting, unification of Primary Election dates, voter pre-registration starting at age 16 and allowing citizens to mail in their absentee ballots sailed through the Albany legislative chambers, causing local board of elections authorities to question the timeframe and resources available for counties to implement the new voting laws.
Initially uncertain about the implementation of the new voting laws County Board of Elections (BOE) Commissioners Laura Brazak and Peggy Bickford told The Palladium-Times Friday implementing measures such as early voting has been a new, sudden process.
“Every county has to go through this process,” said Republican BOE Commissioner Bickford “The state Board of Elections, it's a new process for them and they haven't built the rules and all of that to go along with it.”
The first ever and only early voting precinct in Oswego County will be situated across the hall from the County’s BOE office at 185 E. Seneca St. and is set to be operated by 10 poll workers starting on Oct. 26. The poll site will serve approximately 70,000 voters in the county, according to Board of Elections estimates. Per statute, residents who vote during early voting will not be able to cast another vote come Election Day on Nov. 5. Early voting results will not be reported until after the night of the general election, according to Bickford.
Brazak, the Democratic BOE Commissioner in the county, said one of the biggest challenges in implementing early voting comes in the way of making sure the same guidelines apply to all counties despite the variance in population numbers seen from locality to locality.
“Some counties only have approximately 4,000 voters,” Brazak said in reference to the Hamilton County voting population Hamilton, it has like 4,000 voters. “If you're looking at some of the counties that have three million voters, that's problematic. That's why the same laws cannot apply. It's a matter of scale affects the process.”
Despite it being a recent implementation, Bickford says communication between counties has been key.
“We're all in the same boat,” she said, noting the commissioners. “From talking to the other commissioners, we are all handling it pretty much in the same way — within the law. Do we hope it's going to get easier? Yes.”
Back in January, the state pledged $10 million to help deploy early voting across the 62 counties. The state mandates one early voting site for every 50,000 active voters and can provide Oswego County with approximately $133,000 to cover labor costs — including overtime — as well as “state of the art” poll site equipment, according to Brazak.
Hardware such as on-demand printers can facilitate on-site duties, aiding poll workers when trying to find specific ballots, Bickford said.
Despite the push from state leaders to amend voting procedures, Bickford does not believe it will aid low turnout. She noted the voting population has maintained stagnant over the last 10 years.
“I would just let it go because (early voting) does not improve voter turnout,” she said. “I think in a lot of ways it's probably going to make it less because people say ‘oh, I can do it tomorrow,’ and they don’t get there at all. I think this is going to cause confusion with everybody out there”
With the first early voting procedure in state history scheduled to start in late October, both commissioners said they are “confident” the process will go “smoothly.”
“We have done our due diligence,” Bickford said, noting there has been extensive training process for poll workers that included mock election processes. “How many people walk through the door is anybody's guess. That's where we are. We feel confident that we understand the process. We feel confident that we can implement these changes.”
The general election in New York state is Nov. 5. Early voting will commence on Oct. 26 and will run through Nov. 3. Listed below is the early voting schedule:
- Saturday, Oct. 26 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Sunday, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Monday, Oct. 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Tuesday and Wednesday Oct. 29-30 from noon to 8 p.m.
- Thursday and Friday Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Saturday and Sunday Nov. 2-3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, the county Board of Elections can be reached at: