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Clinton County Officials Assess Early Voting

Pat Bradley/WAMC

In Clinton County, New York’s northeastern-most county, the races focused on local town boards, clerks, tax collectors, highway superintendents and the like. The variety of races provided an opportunity for the Board of Elections to test the popularity of early voting at the same time it began the use of a new electronic voter check-in system.
The only countywide races in Clinton County were four seats for State Supreme Court Justice, county clerk and county coroner. There were a number of uncontested seats including all of the races for town supervisors. There are also some close races that await the results of absentee ballots, most notably a 31-vote difference in the 3rd district County Legislature race between incumbent Republican Mark Henry and Democrat Jerry Marking.
Two new Plattsburgh common councilors will be seated.  Democrat Ira Barbell easily won in Ward 1 and Democrat Paul DeDominicas ran unopposed in Ward 4. Neither incumbent sought re-election.

The Clinton County Board of Elections oversees polling across the 1,118-square mile county.  During the early voting period there was one location for voters to cast their ballots – the Government Center in downtown Plattsburgh. A new electronic Poll Pad voter check was used during early voting and Republican Elections Commissioner Greg Campbell said its rollout went smoothly.  “The system worked just the way it was supposed to work.  The poll workers were very pleased with the ease with which it worked for them and the voters were extremely pleased with the results as far as how they got in so quickly which was really important because we had 51 election districts. So it went very very well.”

As for the early voting itself Democratic Commissioner Mary Dyer found voters very receptive.  “We had about 749 voters. Everybody was very receptive to it because instead of that one day of having to come vote and nine times out of ten this happens or that happens. So it was more flexible.  We allowed more people a bigger window to come in and cast their ballot.”

At the GOP headquarters in Morrisonville, County Republican Chair Clark Currier says the campaign cycle moved up when primaries changed and then early voting further tightened candidates’ schedules.  “It effected mail drops. It affected advertisements. It affected everything that the candidates did. Putting signs out the Town of Plattsburgh has a moratorium on political signs I think 45 days before the election and 14 of that is sucked up with early voting so it’s effectively 31 days. There’s a lot of effects of it.”

While the candidates had to deal with some campaign management implications, most support early voting.  Area 5 legislature candidate Richard Potiker found that early voting “snuck up” on him.  “I talked to a lot of people when I was out even after early voting had started and they were just you know I’m old school I’m just going to wait ‘til Election Day you know.  But I think as it becomes more and more accepted people will do it. I think it was very convenient. I went and voted early just to try it. I liked it. So I think more and more people will do it.  The politicians and the campaigns are going to have to adjust as the numbers of early voters increases.”
In downtown Plattsburgh, where Democrats were monitoring election results Tuesday night, Ward 1 council candidate Ira Barbell said he was disappointed there was only one location for early voting in the county. He also thinks absentee ballots should be modified to further increase voter participation.  “It was hard for some people without transportation to get to that single site in Plattsburgh. I’m a very big fan of it and if the Legislature removes the top part of the absentee ballot application we’ll see many many more people voting by mail.”

New York is the 38th state to implement early voting according to Common Cause NY. The state budgeted $10 million to start early voting and another $14.7 for electronic polling records.


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