This year, tens of thousands of Long Islanders voted early.

This year, tens of thousands of Long Islanders voted early. Credit: Tom Lambui

Voters are finally reaping the benefits of Albany’s belated efforts to modernize New York’s election system.

This year, tens of thousands of Long Islanders voted early, or by absentee without the usual "excuses" like being out of your county. Both methods are convenient, and relatively new in New York.

Even with the greater use of mailed-in voting, county election boards were able to quickly tabulate most of those votes because they now can start processing absentee ballots before Election Day. That gives the public a quicker sense of who won. It should quell concerns about mischief, too.

Consider the difference in the last two elections in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Long Island and Queens. In 2020, Republican George Santos didn’t concede to Rep. Tom Suozzi, the Democratic incumbent, until two weeks after Election Day, given the slow count of mail-in ballots. It didn’t end up being close; Suozzi won by more than 12%. But the lack of clarity continued so long that Santos went to new-member orientation in Washington. In a retry this year, Santos succeeded. He had a similar margin on election night, and Democratic opponent Robert Zimmerman quickly conceded.

Suffolk County’s first results were delayed for hours on election night, due to what election officials said was a problem processing results from field locations. And counting continues on Long Island of sworn affidavit ballots cast at polling places and absentees that came in after Election Day. These will be crucial in a handful of tight races. The better our election processes work to give speedy results, the more confidence people will have in the system.

There is more to be done. Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed two reasonable bills that would make voting a little easier. One would allow voters to vote by affidavit ballot if they show up at the wrong poll site but within the correct Assembly district. Votes would count in races for which you were eligible. The other law would push back the deadline to register and vote in the same election to as late as 10 days before an election. Crucially, that final day would also be the first day of early voting, setting up the possibility that on that day, you could both register and vote. It would be good to test the logistical challenges in 2023, a year when local elections are on the ballot and turnout will be smaller.

Gov. Kathy Hochul should sign these bills, and next year she and the Legislature must work together to allow any registered voter to use the absentee system. That would require two approvals by the State Legislature and then voter passage of a constitutional amendment.

Voting is one of the most important acts of a citizen; we must ensure that it is fair, accessible and transparent.

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.