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Early voting will be judged on turnout

September 4, 2019 12:55 pm Updated: September 4, 2019 10:47 pm

When New York state handed $10 million to county governments to implement early voting this year, Greene and Columbia counties moved to get a system in place for the November election. The age-old tradition of voting has caught up to the freedom and flexibility of our digitized social media era.

The state Board of Elections is distributing $15,000 to each county for every early polling site. Columbia County will have three early voting sites and has been allocated an additional $45,000, and Greene County will have one, and will be given an additional $15,000.

Voting will be exactly as it always has been on Election Day — with a paper ballot that voters will mark and then scan into a voting machine. Signing in will be a little different. Voters will sign in on new electronic poll books that have been programmed with the voter rolls.

Early voting is a way of giving people who otherwise do not vote a greater opportunity to participate in the democratic process by opening up the amount of hours available to them. But there are a couple of caveats to the early voting premise.

First, the cost, labor and operational details of having extra election days could have a big impact on Greene and Columbia counties and the voting inspectors who are going to be required to work.

Second, the administrative hurdles for local boards of election could place undue logistical burdens on small, largely rural counties like Columbia and Greene, while generating little additional voter turnout.

There has to be justification for an early-voting system in Greene and Columbia counties, and that justification will be seen in a noticeable increase in voter turnout. If a great deal of effort is expended for not much return, it may be time to rethink early voting.