The Nassau County Legislature voted Monday to borrow $3.7 million to implement early voting beginning 10 days before Election Day, in October and November.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the funding was necessary to upgrade technology at the Board of Elections to make sure that those who vote early don't also vote on Election Day.
But Nicolello criticized the state for authorizing early voting without immediately providing additional funding for counties. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Democrat-led State Legislature approved early voting in January, after counties already had set their 2019 budgets.
"I understand the need for the technology. But until … the State Legislature actually ever passes funding for this, it is another unfunded mandate," said Nicolello.
"They passed something that obviously generates more opportunities for people to vote — it's a great thing, pat themselves on the back and then, as usually is the case, the funding of it goes down to the local level and gets paid by the property taxpayers," Nicolello said.
David Gugerty, Nassau's Democratic elections commissioner, said the $3.7 million will pay for electronic poll books and machines to enable voters to cast ballots at any polling place designated for early voting.
Larry Nedelka, budget manager with the Board of Elections, said the electronic poll books would replace traditional paper books, and prevent re-voting.
"Once you've voted, you've signed that electronic book, then you can't vote again," Nedelka said. "That prevents somebody from just taking a field trip around the county, voting in different places."
The State Senate has proposed $10 million for early voting, while the Assembly has proposed $34 million. Gugerty has pegged the extra cost in 2019 for early voting at $4.2 million, mainly for one-time machinery upgrades.
The money for early voting in Nassau was included in $50.97 million in borrowing for projects including county road resurfacing ($45 million); sheriff's vehicle upgrades ($1 million); replacement of a telephone system at the county jail in East Meadow ($750,000); and a probe of disparities in county contracting awards ($500,000).
In 2004, a study found that 96 percent of about $500 million in county contract awards between 1998 and 2002 went to white-owned businesses.
County legislators also approved another $18.6 million in borrowing, including more than $6 million for upgrades to court buildings and streetscape and road improvements, and $200,000 to refurbish Cantiague Park's miniature golf course.