Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced that he helped pass legislation that would strengthen the state’s electoral process by instituting early voting in all general, primary and special elections in New York (A.689-A).
“Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, and we have to find ways to get more people involved in the process,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Unfortunately, less than 46 percent of New York voters cast their vote on Election Day 2012. The Assembly’s legislation would provide voters with more opportunities to cast their ballots. Increasing voter participation is extremely important to me because it will make our democracy more representative.”
Under the bill, early voting would begin on the third Thursday prior to a general election and go right up until the Thursday before Election Day, providing voters with a two-week time frame to cast their ballots. In the case of a primary or special election, early voting would run from the second Thursday before regular voting until the Thursday prior to the actual election date, giving voters up to a week of early voting. Early voting polls would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each weekday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Local boards of elections would designate at least five early voting sites in each county. The local board of elections would automatically be designated as a polling place in each county. Boards of elections would also be allowed to staff early voting sites with appointed inspectors or their own employees. Early votes would be secured throughout the early voting period and the results would not be released prior to the close of polls on Election Day. In addition, the names of each early voter would be recorded to ensure that early voters are properly removed from Election Day poll books.
“This early voting reform would give disabled voters and those who work non-traditional hours more flexibility to cast their votes well ahead of Election Day,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “It would also create shorter lines at the polls and give local boards of elections enough time to ensure that no one votes twice in the same election.”
If made law, New York would join 32 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting an alternative to in-person voting on Election Day, Thiele noted.