Everyone can celebrate at least one shared accomplishment at the close of this election season: a successful round of early voting in New York.
This general election, over 1 million New Yorkers chose not to wait until the second Tuesday in November to head to the polls, an option the vast majority of states already use. Early voting was particularly popular on Long Island, with more than 98,000 early votes in Suffolk County and over 123,000 in Nassau County. Both were at the high end of New York’s counties when compared with their early turnout in 2020, an explosive presidential contest — Nassau achieved 55% and Suffolk topped 80%.
Some polling sites had the usual small problems, but overall it was a smooth and useful period over nine days. Other than the high-turnout 2020 presidential year, more Long Islanders voted early than at any time since the program started in 2019.
These first few years of early voting on Long Island have provided some important lessons:
Interest has grown along with the number of early voting sites, and as voters get more used to the concept. Long Island now has more than 50 early voting sites, almost double the number it started with in 2019.
The ability to vote at any site in your county, which neighboring New York City residents don’t enjoy, is an added and praiseworthy convenience.
Early voting was hugely helpful during the pandemic, especially to cut down on long lines in 2020, when close to 350,000 Long Islanders took advantage of the option.
Other than 2020, when then-President Donald Trump and Joe Biden were on the ballot, the high days of early voting turnout on the Island occurred during the last weekend before the election.
There are reasonable questions to be asked about the right number of sites, days, and hours of early voting, in an attempt to align opportunity with interest. Cost needs to be calculated into the equation. But the interest clearly is there, with great capacity to grow. When the State Legislature reviews this year’s election it should consider adding sites or hours where necessary, particularly during those last days before the traditional election Tuesday. There could also be more funding to advertise the early voting option, and to help county election boards run these sites even more smoothly.
New York is belatedly modernizing its election system, particularly the absentee ballot option that should be a further convenience for New Yorkers. But it’s clear that members of both major parties understand and utilize early voting already: The Long Island breakdown this year was approximately 90,600 Democrats, 80,000 Republicans, and just over 50,000 who are affiliated with another or no party.
That interest is no surprise. Early voting is a great feature that adds resiliency to our voting system, come storm, flu, train delay, or other last-minute problem. And it just makes life easier for voters of any stripe. That’s a win.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.