Orleans asks state to scale back early voting, saying small turnout ‘clearly a waste’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 September 2022 at 11:23 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: This sign outside the County Office Building on Route 31 lets people know it is an early voting site during a primary in June. The turnout over nine days was less than 1 percent of the registered voters.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature is asking the state to scale back the early voting mandates for smaller counties like Orleans.

The Legislature noted a tiny turnout in recent primaries for early voting. The county needs to staff a polling site for 72 hours over nine days of early voting, including two weekends and some weeknight evenings.

The turnout for the nine days of early voting in a June primary was 0.9 percent. It was even less in August when only 40 out of 6,059 registered Republicans used early voting over nine days for a Congressional primary.

County legislators said data from the smaller counties show that three years of early voting has proven to be a “financial, staffing and administrative burden on all counties where there are small, non-contentious elections and very small primaries.” Orleans legislators said there aren’t long lines of voters on election day, with people waiting to cast ballots.

Orleans officials are asking the state to not impose a “one size fits all” mandate on the counties.

Legislators said the recent primaries, with such a small turnout, “is a clear example of the waste and burden imposed by legislation calling for long hours of early voting.”

In Orleans, both election commissioners – Janice Grabowski, a Democrat, and Kathy Case, a Republican – favor scaling back early voting to bring down the costs and strain on the local Board of Elections.

County legislators are asking state officials to either repeal or amend the following new election laws:

  • CHAPTER 441 OF 2019, which creates nine days of early voting prior to any special, primary or general elections and requires 66 hours of staffing in at least one poll site in each county;
  • Laws beginning with CHAPTER 91 OF 2020, that modify the availability and allowable reasons for the use of Absentee Ballots and resemble “Vote by Mail” processes, which create additional administrative burdens on staff, and divert voters form Election Day voting, thereby creating underutilization, increased costs and inefficiencies;
  • Two laws, CHAPTER 763 OF 2021, modified by CHAPTER 117 OF 2022, create a lengthy and highly inefficient procedure for processing arriving absentee ballots twice weekly, in batches of as little as one ballot;
  • CHAPTER 781 OF 2021, adds an additional 12 hours of early voting to an already ineffective, burdensome and costly 66 hours of early voting.

The Legislature forwarded copies of the resolution to Governor Kathy Hochul; Senator Zellnor Myrie, Chair Senate Committee on elections; Assembly Member Latrice Walker, Chair NYS Assembly Committee on Election Law; Senator Robert Ortt; Assemblyman Steve Hawley; Assemblyman Michael Norris; NYSAC; NYS Association of Towns; co-executive directors Valentine and Stavisky of the NYS Board of Elections; and NYS Elections Commissioners Association.