State and local officials announced at a news conference last Friday the 15 locations in Nassau County that will be used as early-voting sites before the general election on Nov. 5. In January, the State Legislature passed a series of reforms intended to make voting easier for people who struggle to get to the polls on Election Day. New York became the 38th state to pass an early-voting law.
“We have the right to say who leads us, we have the right to vote, and now we’re opening it up to even more people,” County Executive Laura Curran said. “Sometimes on a Tuesday, it’s hard to get to the polls. . . . This will give people the opportunity to exercise that precious right.”
The legislation, authored by State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a Democrat from Glen Cove who chairs the Assembly’s Election Law Committee, requires counties to allow New Yorkers to vote in person up to 10 days before an election. The law also mandates a minimum number of polling sites and hours per county based on the number of registered voters. Voting rights activist Jarret Berg, co-founder of VoteEarlyNY, said that Nassau went “above and beyond” the law’s requirements in terms of the number of polling sites and hours for early voting.
The County Board of Elections announced the early-voting sites (see map) for the general election, which is more than double the state requirement of seven sites, and a nine-day schedule that outlines 75 hours for early voting — 60 are required — including evenings and weekends.
“Nassau County . . . voters, many of whom are commuters, do face barriers in an antiquated, single Election Day system,” Berg said. “By announcing this robust program, Nassau is not only delivering on that promise of the new law, but also is leading the way statewide.”
Democratic Election Commissioner David Gugerty said the Board of Elections looked at certain criteria when it chose the early-voting sites, many of which, he added, are existing polling places. Those criteria included handicapped accessibility, ample parking and proximity to public transportation. Gugerty added that registered Nassau voters can vote at any of the sites during the nine-day early-voting period.
“We’re going to allow people to vote where they live, where they work and where they play or shop,” he said. “This is going to be much more convenient for our beleaguered voters, many of whom have two or three jobs and all sorts of obligations, living in our busy area.”
In March, Lavine told the Herald that it was important that counties are not “saddled with the extra expense” of implementing the early-voting system. The Assembly and Senate set aside $17 million to cover general operating expenses. Additionally, the Assembly allocated $27 million for electronic poll books and scanning devices to print ballots for people who live in different election districts.
“The initial cost of this will be significantly reimbursed by the state,” Gugerty said, noting the electronic poll books. “All of this technology will be at the early-voting sites as well as the regular polling sites.”
Berg also noted the importance of implementing early voting ahead of the 2020 presidential election. According to a May 2018 report by the New York State Senate Democratic Policy Group, the state ranks 41st in the nation in voter turnout — 57 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. The report included a survey in which 79 percent said they would be more likely to vote if early voting was enacted.
“Next year is going to be a major election event,” Berg said. “It’s good to work this program in now so that folks are ready to be there to serve the voters when, inevitably, there’ll be much higher turnout and interest.”
“Decisions are made in this country by those who show up,” said County Legislator Josh Lafazan, an Independent from Woodbury, “and we ought to make sure that everyone has every right to show up — not just on Election Day, but with early voting.”
Residents who have questions about the county’s early-voting procedures can go to www.nassauvotes.com.
Ben Strack contributed to this story.