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Getting Late For Early Voting In Troy

A voting machine

A third attempt by Democrats on the Rensselaer County legislature to establish an early voting site in the county’s largest community has been defeated along party lines.

For weeks, advocates have been seeking the establishment of a polling site for early voting in the City of Troy, as New York state allows 10 days of early voting for the first time.

The Troy city council has passed resolutions in support of the polling location, first to pay $7,500 with the county making up the other half, then to foot the entire $15,000 bill for the city of about 50,000.

City Council President Carmella Mantello is a Republican.

“I certainly support an early voting site here in the City of Troy, and I’m hoping that it does move forward.”

City councilor Anasha Cummings, a Democrat, says they’ve even got a location in mind: Unity House, a human service agency in the North Central neighborhood.

“Which is right on a major bus line as well as Hoosick Street and close to downtown, very convenient to many commuters.”

But the effort remains stalled at the county level, after a third request from the county’s Democratic legislative minority was defeated in committee Wednesday.

Peter Grimm, the legislature’s minority leader, says he is disappointed.

“Again, there were excuses from the other side as to why not to have it, but we still believe that this is one of the most important things happening for how voting is going to go, and Troy is being left out of the process.”

Along with being the county seat and having the largest population, Troy is the county’s Democratic stronghold.

Republican county legislature chair Mike Stammel does not support a third early polling place. He points out that the two polling locations already selected – in the neighboring town of Brunswick and at Schodack town hall – were agreed upon by the county’s Democratic and Republican board of elections commissioners, as per state law.

He says the decision by the board of elections should stand and denies any partisan politics at work.

“I think we should keep politics out of it as much as possible. That’s what these people were appointed to do.”

Stammel says the locations were chosen with geography in mind, and that access to public transportation – a concern raised by advocates – is a challenge throughout the largely rural county.

“No matter where you are in the county, people are going to have the same that problem Troy has. And there are places where there’s no transportation by CDTA or even have cabs that can bring you to those places to vote if you needed to.”

With early voting set to begin October 26th across New York, Grimm says he and the other Democrats on the county legislature will keep pushing for an additional polling site.

“You know, we have had lively debate over this. And we continue to bang the drum. But banging the drum certainly brings everyone to the table and conversation happens.”

A new ally has come to the Troy city council and legislative minority’s aide: Democratic State Senator Neil Breslin.

Breslin has scheduled a press conference for next week at the Unity House alongside Democratic Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, who is up for reelection, the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County, the NAACP, and other community leaders. Breslin is expected to unveil legislation focused on early voting.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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