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NY Officials Push To Broaden Early Voting Opportunities

Officials flank NY Senator Neil Breslin at Unity House in Troy.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Officials flank NY Senator Neil Breslin at Unity House in Troy.

Concerns over lack of an early voting site in Troy, New York have led to a push for new state legislation.

New York state’s first 10 days of early voting start Saturday.  But for residents of Rensselaer County's largest city, casting a ballot depends on finding a way to get to one of two designated early polling places — neither of which is served by public transportation. Democratic State Senator Neil Breslin:    "The two voting places, Schodack and Brunswick, really prevent a lot of people in the city of Troy from easy access to voting. Thus, John McDonald and myself have sponsored legislation to change that.  And change it principally, the new legislation which will not be before the Senate and Assembly until January, but that legislation would say, that the top municipalities in that county come first, whether it be village, city, town. In this case it's the city of Troy, first. And the city of Troy, under this legislation, would have a place to vote."

Breslin was joined by fellow-Democrats Assemblyman John McDonald and Troy Mayor Patrick Madden — who is running for reelection — Tuesday at Unity House, a site that had offered itself as an early polling place in the Collar City.  Unity House CEO Chris Burke:   "We serve thousands of families in Troy, many of whom have barriers to transportation. We became involved with the League of Women Voters, Russell Sage, Troy Area United Ministries and the NAACP in an effort to try to get an early voting site in Troy, and as we were involved we realized that we were a central location and met all the accessibility requirements."

Breslin was asked whether discrimination was a factor. The Republican-led county legislature, responsible for establishing the early voting sites, has denied any wrongdoing.   "I think there's an argument to say that you are depriving groups of people in the city of Troy that might not have transportation, might be working two or three different jobs, an inability to properly vote in this election, depriving them then of their constitutional right to do so."

Madden says early voting should be the norm across the state.  "We ought to be making it as easy as possible for every eligible voter to participate in the central tenets of democracy. Early voting is a common-sense move, and it is long overdue."

Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello, also running to hold her seat, says she advocated for a polling site in the city of Troy back in April.   "Troy is home, the hub of the county but saying that, ultimately the Board of Election commissioners decide where the early voting sites are. So I think it's important moving forward that obviously politics be put aside, which I believe they have, and the Board of Elections considers Troy for next year having an early voting site, and certainly there comes the costs because next year there's three elections. You have two primaries and then you have the general election. So that certainly would be more money. So hopefully the state will provide additional dollars for the purpose. I understand Senator Breslin has proposed a bill. I work in the legislature so I cannot lobby for that bill but I certainly support that bill."

Breslin says although his bill will not impact this year’s voting, it's likely it will be passed next year in time for the 2020 elections. State lawmakers return to Albany in January.

Troy City Councilor David Bissember on Early Voting.

Troy City Councilor Anasha Cummings on Early Voting.

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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