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Capital Region Handling Early Voting For The First Time

Albany County residents cast their votes in the 2019 Election at the BOE on Russell Road.
Sergio Adams/Facebook
New Yorkers cast their "early votes" in the 2019 Election.

For the first time, you don’t have to wait until Tuesday to vote in local elections in New York. New York has joined 38 other states in allowing early voting, and people are taking the opportunity. 

According to the unofficial machine count tally provided by the state Board of Elections, more than 133,000 New Yorkers have taken advantage of early voting as of this airing. There were 104,254 voters at polling sites outside of New York City, and 28,777 in the city. There are 11.7 million registered voters statewide.

Credit Mark Robinson/Facebook
Sign guides early voters to the Albany County Board of Elections offices on Russell Road.

Greene County's Republican Deputy Elections Commissioner Elisa Jarvis says more than 250 people voted early. "We have anywhere from 40 to 70 voters a day that are showing up to early vote, and yeah, everything is going smoothly as of now."

The League of Women Voters of New York State reached out to the public with an online survey*  to gauge perception of early voting. Jennifer Wilson is the League's Deputy Director.   "It asks how it was finding the poll sites, it asked about their experience at the poll site, whether there was new equipment, how the equipment was working, and then there's just a short part at the end that basically says 'if there's anything that can be done to improve early voting. What do you think that would be, what would that look like,' and so far we've had about 900 people respond to the survey, and overwhelmingly people have had very positive experiences. So far only two people of the 900 have said that they would not vote early again, which is kind of interesting. But by and large people said, yes, we love early voting. We're planning on voting early again next election."

Wilson adds the majority of respondents said their wait time was between zero and 5 minutes. The way people heard about early voting came as a surprise:   "So far, a good majority of people have learned about it from print media, if you can believe that, which I was very surprised to see. I thought social media was gonna take the cake, but most people so far have said print media was the way they found out about it."

Credit Mark Robinson/Facebook
A bus transported Albany residents to the BOE on the first day of statewide early voting.

Nonetheless, former Albany common councilor Mark Robinson used Facebook, along with old-fashioned pavement-pounding, to mobilize voters on day one.    "A friend of mine, he provided me with a bus. We set up at Livingston School. Elders came out and voted. We set up at 400 Central Avenue. Elders came out and voted. We had coffee on the bus for them. It was a very good turnout, considering it was the first day of early voting."

The bus ran voters up and back from the Board of Elections on Russell Road.   "What I observed is the elderly is taking early voting more serious than the younger voter block. But, as far as the turnout, as of yesterday, speaking to the Republican Commissioner, she told me only 1 percent of the city of Albany came out and voted so far in early vote new York."

Democratic Albany Board of Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne:   "It's hard to say what effect this will have, because turnout is driven by the candidates and the issues. It's the offices. What's up, what's going on in the national or state level."

Clyne notes Albany County has six regional early voting sites, and as of late Wednesday about 2500 votes had been cast countywide.    "People's schedules are much more intense today than they were even 20 years ago, and it is hard to cram things in, and if voting isn't a priority with a person, if they have any other competing, you know, scheduling issues they're going to give the voting a backseat.  But now, with nine days of early voting, and in a couple years, you're going to probably have the universal no fault or no excuse absentee voting. There's really, there would be no excuse for anybody not to be voting. So I think that the state legislature has done everything that it could to set the table so to speak, for the electorate."

In 2020, New York will have at least 27 days of early voting  — nine each for the presidential primary in April, the congressional, state and local primary in June and the November general election.

Early voting in New York continues daily through Sunday, November 3rd. 

* * *

The NYSBOE notes the next election will be the General Election to be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Polls will be open from 6 AM to 9 PM everywhere.

* Voters can take online survey at the League of Women Voter’s website www.lwvny.org.  The League says all responses are anonymous and do not require voters to input any personal information such as email or address.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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