New York state held its first early vote in 2019, and voter participation shot up nearly 45 percent statewide compared with 2015, according to Vote Early New York. Last year, Nassau County, which had double the required number of early-voting sites, had the highest early-voting turnout in the state. In all, some 256,251 people voted early in New York.
This year, an astonishing total of at least 2.2 million New Yorkers cast early ballots over the course of nine days, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, according to the Associated Press. At the same time, 1.1 million sent in absentee ballots. Before Election Day, some 3.3 million people had already voted in New York.
There’s no doubt that the contentious nature of this historic presidential race drove people to vote, either early at the polls, by absentee ballot or in person on Election Day. But without early and absentee voting, we have to wonder whether turnout would have been as high as it was. We doubt it.
Clearly, New York is on to something with early and absentee voting. That’s why we must not only continue to offer these options in the future, but also expand on them. Nassau County had 15 early-voting sites this year, while Suffolk had 12. Only one of the Nassau sites was on the North Shore, in Roslyn Heights. Clearly, the North Shore needs more sites — but it should not receive them at the expense of other areas across the county. They should be added to Nassau’s current roster of sites.
Too many people had to wait too long to vote, which some would argue is a form of voter suppression. You simply shouldn’t have to wait an hour to vote, let alone three hours or longer. The Nassau County Board of Elections should begin planning additional sites.
That would require funding, because elections require paid poll workers. Coming by such funding will not be easy if the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Nonetheless, the county should be taking a hard look at expanding early voting — if not now, then in the near future.