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Early Voting Experiment

Wed, 06/17/2020 - 19:16

Editorial

New Yorkers have already been voting in 2020 primaries for a range of local and statewide races. Early in-person polling places, which opened on Saturday, will remain open until Sunday afternoon and then reopen on Tuesday, the actual day of the primary.

Unfortunately, statistics on the effect of early voting in New York State suggest its effect on voter participation has been negligible to date. In Suffolk County, few and far-between early polling places could be the main obstacle to improving the numbers.

New York’s turnout during the 2018 congressional midterm put it close to the bottom of all states, 44th over all. In the 2016 presidential election, New Yorkers could muster only 39th place. Across the United States, early voting has not done much to boost enthusiasm; it just moved the voting around.

To vote early, registered Democrats from all of East Hampton’s 19 election districts must get to Windmill Village, the elder housing complex off Accabonac Road on the East Hampton Village fringe, to cast a ballot from now through Sunday at 3 p.m. Southampton Town voters must go to Stony Brook Southampton University. Southold in-person voting is at the town’s senior services building at 750 Pacific Street in Mattituck.

For many eligible voters, the drive to these sites, from Sag Harbor, Orient, or Montauk, for example, is a too-high barrier, especially this time of year. A limited number of polling places will be open on Tuesday for the final day of the primary, and even then, getting information about where to go is made unnecessarily difficult by the county elections board.

Getting an absentee ballot by mail is no sure thing either, given the Postal Service’s eccentricities, such as failing to provide street delivery in several areas of East Hampton Town. School district elections and budget votes had to be extended to help compensate for difficulties getting voters’ packages into the right hands. An experiment in universal mail-in ballots is now providing a hint of hope for greater percent of turnout — some school districts recorded double-digit increases. The larger the participation, the more meaningful the results and the better our democracy.

 


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