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Early voting off to a rocky start on Long Island

A voter voting behind a booth on Election

A voter voting behind a booth on Election Day Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011 at Alleghany Avenue Elementary School in Lindenhurst. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

 When State Senate Democrats marked their first day in power by passing a slate of voting reforms in January, it was heralded as a landmark change. After years of Republican intransigence, measures like early voting would make it easier to cast ballots and improve New York's dismal turnout rate.

But early voting in particular is off to a rocky start on Long Island.

Suffolk County will provide only 10 sites for early voting this fall, one in each town. That's reasonable for tiny Shelter Island, but an absurdity for Brookhaven, with its 486,000 people spread from the Sound to the Atlantic. Nor is it a decent solution for other populous towns like Babylon, Huntington and Islip.

Nassau is marginally better. Significantly smaller in area, it has 15 sites but their distribution is problematic. Eleven are in Hempstead Town, one in North Hempstead and three in Oyster Bay.  At least Nassau will offer 73 hours of early voting from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3; Suffolk will provide the state minimum 60. And voters can go to any site in Nassau, but must vote in their own town in Suffolk.

The county boards of elections cite legitimate difficulties — like money. County budgets were set before Albany acted,  and state funding  is inadequate. Nassau approved borrowing $3.7 million for its costs. More time is needed to train workers for more sites. 

We hoped early voting for this fall's off-year election would be as convenient as was promised in January.  The counties must ensure they deliver the full benefits of early voting in 2020, when the presidency, Congress and every state legislative seat will be up for grabs. — The editorial board