Early voting 2023 has begun
New York’s early voting option started up last weekend and will go through this coming Sunday. The General Election will follow on Tuesday, November 7th. The 2023 election is not a “high-visibility election”; most of the races are for offices at the local government level. Of course, those elections matter. Local races include seats on town and city councils, county legislatures, candidates for mayor, town supervisor, town clerk, town justice, and highway superintendent. Often the decisions made by these individuals have a more direct impact on voters’ lives than those made in Albany or even Washington. These elections can often be decided by a small number of voters, so every ballot cast is important.
These local elected officials appoint county managers and county auditors, town chiefs of police and chairs of zoning and planning boards. They allocate the funds in local budgets and decide when and whether to apply for additional funding in the form of federal, state and county grants.
Early voting lasts through Nov. 5th. Polling hours may vary, and early voting sites may differ from Election Day voting sites. The best way to know the hours of early voting and the polling locations – which are often different from those used for the traditional General Election – is to check with your local county board of elections. Registered voters may cast ballots during early voting. Voters may check their eligibility to vote through the state Board of Elections website. Of course, voters may cast ballots at their local polling places on the traditional General Election Day, November 7th during the period 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. (remember if you have voted during the early voting period, you cannot vote again during the General Election). You can find your polling site by going to the state Board of Elections website.
In addition to choosing local elected officials, New Yorkers will also get to cast their votes on two statewide ballot measures. New York State’s Constitution does not allow citizens to petition to put questions directly on the ballot, but the Legislature can choose to do so, and they have. The two proposals deal with increasing debt limits.
Proposal 1would remove debt limits on small city school districts. The proposal was approved by two successive legislative votes and with overwhelming bipartisan support.
A "yes" vote supports this amendment to eliminate the constitutional debt limit for small city school districts (a “small city” is a city with less than one hundred twenty-five thousand people), which currently amounts to 5% of the average full value of the last five years' property tax rolls within the district. A "no" vote opposes this amendment, thereby keeping the constitutional debt limit for small city school districts, which can be surpassed if 60% of the voters approve a measure to do so.
Proposal 2 would allow greater debt for localities’ calculation of debts for sewage treatment facilities. This provision was designed to exclude constitutional debt limits when it comes to the construction or maintenance of sewer facilities. Under the New York Constitution, state municipalities have a limit of how much debt can be incurred. The percentage varies by municipality. This question is put to voters every ten years and has been approved regularly since 1963.
A "yes" vote supports allowing municipalities to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities for an additional ten years (through 2034). A "no" vote opposes allowing municipalities to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness.
While it may seem like a relatively quiet election, partisans will be looking to see which political party shows signs of strength going into the more consequential election of 2024, when the President is chosen. The ballot questions in 2021, for example, showed signs of Republican strength since their opposition sunk three ballot questions. In 2022, Republicans ran a strong campaign that came close to unseating Democratic incumbent Governor Hochul.
However you view the partisan divide, over the next week you have your annual opportunity to have your voice heard. You can vote through this Sunday at an early voting polling place or during the traditional General Election Day next Tuesday. As the saying goes, not choosing is choosing. Vote.
Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.