New York State will reimburse Nassau and Suffolk counties about $1.7 million each to cover the costs of early voting for a nine-day period prior to Election Day, while the counties look to use borrowed money for the rest of the multimillion-dollar expense.
The state Board of Elections had $24 million to distribute to local election boards for early voting as part of the 2019-20 state budget agreement.
The state Legislature approved early voting in January, months after annual municipal budgets had been set. Some lawmakers worried that the counties would not be able to afford the unbudgeted expense.
In Nassau, early voting is expected to run to $3.7 million in capital costs, including for electronic poll books, which prevent revoting, and ballot-on-demand technology, which allows people to vote in any of Nassau's designated poll sites, said Bonnie Garone, counsel to Nassau's Democratic elections commissioner. Operational costs are about $780,000, she said.
In March, the Nassau county legislature approved borrowing $3.7 million for early voting.
The state Board of Elections awarded Nassau $1,061,306 for capital expenses and more than $737,314 in operating aid, such as poll workers' salaries, according to figures provided by the state agency. Suffolk County will get $1,001,253 for capital costs and $671,470 for operational expenses. The figures must ultimately be approved by the state budget director.
Nassau County will open 15 poll sites. Suffolk will open 10. The Nassau sites are clustered largely in Hempstead Town, in the southern tier of the county, while there is one Suffolk poll site in each of the county's 10 towns.
A Suffolk legislative committee will consider a resolution on Thursday to authorize more than $3 million in already borrowed funds to comply with the early voting law.
Suffolk Republican Elections Commissioner Nicholas LaLota said state money represents less than 50 percent of the actual cost of early voting. "This mandate coming from Albany now must be borne by Suffolk County taxpayers to the tune of about $1.4 million,” LaLota said.
LaLota said the cost to implement early voting will run about $2.74 million in 2019, while operational costs will total $468,579.
Nassau Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said, “it’s typical that the state would pass an initiative that has merit, but at the same time pushes most of the costs onto the local taxpayers. We’ve been fighting this battle for years and unfortunately, it’s continuing."
Garone said, "Of course we'd rather see the state pay for all of it, but it doesn't look like that’s what's going to happen. We believe they should have allocated more across the board, not just to us."
Assemb. Chuck Lavine (D-Glen Cove), who advocated for local reimbursement during budget negotiations, said the distribution was "a fair approach."
"Roughly $4 million that will be going to Nassau and Suffolk is quite proportional to the amount of voters that we have, and our population on a statewide basis," Lavine said. "We would always like to be able to spend more. I was pleased that in a difficult budgetary year in which our revenues were down substantially, the state government was able to arrange for this funding."
With Rachelle Blidner
Nassau poll sites:
- Garden City Rec Complex St Paul’s Field House, Garden City
- West Hempstead Library, West Hempstead
- Floral Park Recreation Center, Floral Park
- Lawrence Village Hall, Lawrence
- Levittown Hall, Levittown
- Oyster Bay Town Hall South, Massapequa
- Wantagh Library, Wantagh
- Elmont Fire District Building, Elmont
- Recreation Center, Rockville Centre
- North Merrick Library, North Merrick
- Firemans Memorial Field, Valley Stream
- Hempstead Recreation Center, Hempstead
- Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, Glen Head
- Mid Island Y JCC, Plainview
- Nassau County Board of Elections, Mineola
Suffolk poll sites:
- Babylon Town Hall Annex, North Babylon
- Brookhaven Town Hall, Farmingville
- Child Development Center of the Hamptons, East Hampton
- VFW Post 1469, Huntington Station
- Islip Town Hall Annex, Islip
- Riverhead Senior Center, Riverhead
- Nesconset Elementary School, Nesconset
- Southampton Youth Services, Southampton
- Southold Senior Center, Mattituck
- Shelter Island Youth Recreational Center, Shelter Island