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Gov. Cuomo proposes early voting with NY covering costs

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here on Jan.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here on Jan. 3, 2018, in Albany. Photo Credit: AP

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to put state money behind the push to allow early voting in New York rather than have counties pick up the cost.

Cuomo, a Democrat, announced Monday he will amend his proposed state budget to include $7 million for counties to offer early voting in the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Good-government groups long have called on New York to permit early voting as one way to boost voter participation.

Unlike absentee voting, early voting generally doesn’t require the voter to supply an excuse for not coming out on Election Day, such as being away on business. More than 30 states now allow some form of early voting in person. About half the states allow absentee voting without an excuse — New York isn’t one of them. Advocates note that participation in early voting has been rising steadily in recent presidential elections.

Cuomo previously had voiced support for early voting, but had suggested municipalities cover the costs. Senate Democrats had called for the state to pay for it — a position the governor now is taking too.

“By offering early voting across the state, we are further breaking down barriers to democracy and helping to ensure that all New Yorkers’ voices are heard,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Since his amendment is part of his financial plan, it would have to be included in a state budget that Cuomo and legislators are supposed to agree on by April 1, the start of New York’s fiscal year.

The Republican-controlled State Senate historically hasn’t supported any move to allow early voting. Last year, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) dismissed the concept, citing the potential costs and saying the current voting system “on the whole works very well.” He didn’t immediately comment Monday.

In contrast, the state chapter of the League of Women Voters said early voting could help improve New York’s “abysmal rate of voter turnout,” while adding that counties shouldn’t bear the cost.

“The League has supported early voting for several years and we are thrilled to see that the governor recognizes the importance of this program by providing seed funding and thereby avoiding passage of an unfunded mandate,” the league said in a statement.

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