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More than 256,000 NYers took advantage of new early voting law

Voters arrive for the first day of early

Voters arrive for the first day of early voting at the Dix Hills Fire Departments on Oct. 26. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

ALBANY — Nassau County recorded the most early voters over nine days among all counties and boroughs under a new state law that allowed 256,251 voters to cast ballots statewide before Election Day.

Nassau County reported 30,018 early voters cast ballots from Oct. 26 through Sunday. Suffolk County reported 17,012 early voters, but despite a much larger number of registered voters, it trailed Erie County, which reported 26,505 early voters, and Westchester County, which reported 21,004 early voters, according to the state Board of Elections.

That translates to 2.8% of registered voters in Nassau County who cast early ballots; 1.6% in Suffolk County; 4% in Erie County and 3.2% in Westchester County.

Statewide, early voters totaled 1.9% of registered voters.

The cost of the effort to increase voter participation was about $24 million in state funding alone. That included the cost of electronic “e-poll books” and the cost of additional staffing. Counties and boroughs opened 248 early voting sites that offered evening, early morning and weekend hours of operation.

The law and spending aim to reverse New York’s voter turnout record: The state was 44th in turnout in the 2018 election cycle and 39th in the 2016 presidential election cycle. However, the FiveThirtyEight news website, which focuses on polling, said this year that its study found no significant increase in overall voting in states that offer early voting.

In New York, it isn’t known yet whether early voting will have increased overall turnout or if it spread the same turnout over more days. Those figures will be known after Tuesday.

“We don’t know yet if that is high or low,” said Todd Valentine, co-executive director of the state Board of Elections. “After the election we will get together with our local commissioners, vendors and other stakeholders and review everything. We’ll look at what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what adjustments need to be made to improve the experience and what if any recommendations we may want to make to state lawmakers.”  

The State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo approved early voting for the first time this year. This election cycle is relatively light, with no statewide races, but it serves as a test ride for early voting that will continue next year in the busy election cycle that will include the presidential election and state legislative races.

Next year, New Yorkers will have nine days of early voting to cast ballots for the April 28 presidential primary; the June 23 state and congressional primary; and for the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.

Nationwide, 39 states offer early voting and Delaware and Virginia have approved the measure to begin in the coming years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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