Jan. 13, 2013

Last week Governor Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed a new law requiring early voting in New York State.  Both touted this as an important reform to the voting process.   Their plan would require 14 days of “early voting” before the annual November general election.  It would also require 7 days of early voting before other elections, including primaries.  Allegany County would be required to have 5 regional “early voting” sites.  Voters from any of our 34 polling districts could vote at any of those 5 regional locations.

Here is a preliminary analysis of the financial impact this proposed law upon our County Board of Elections (“BOE”):

  • Each regional polling site must be staffed by at least 4 election inspectors for 12 hours daily for the required 14 days.
  • At a rate of $10/hour each polling site would cost the County BOE at least $480 per day, or $6,720 per general election.  For 5 regional voting sites the total cost would be at least $33,600.
  • Each polling site must be provided with “poll books” for each of the 34 regular polling places in Allegany County.  Poll books cost the BOE about $500 each.  They contain the names and addresses of every registered voter for each voting district.  They are essential in discovering and preventing voter fraud.
  • The cost for 34 poll books at $500 each will be $17,000.  For 5 regional polling sites that totals $85,000.
  • The BOE must print ballots and make them available at each of the 5 regional polling sites, for every one of the 34 regular polling places in the County.  The ballots required for the State mandated electronic voting machines cost more than $0.50 each.
  • If the BOE provides each regional polling place with 200 ballots for each of the 34 polling places that would calculate to 6,800 ballots at a cost of $3,400 per site.  The cost for all 5 regional polling sites that would exceed $17,000.
  • The BOE staff consists of the 2 Election Commissioners (part-time) and 2 Deputy Election Commissioners.  In addition, Election Inspectors have historically been hired to work on Election Day.  If enacted, this new law will require the BOE to hire Inspectors for an additional 14 days for each general election.  It will be necessary to find numerous new Inspectors and to train them to operate our new electronic machines.  I have no idea what that will cost, but it won’t be cheap.
  • It will be necessary for someone to go through the poll books to verify that no one has voted more than once.  I have no idea how that will be done, or what the expense for that screening will be.

By my calculation the minimum expense to the taxpayers of Allegany County to implement the proposed early voting procedures for each general election will exceed $135,000, or about 0.5% of our total tax levy.    The additional costs for other elections and primaries would be in addition to this expense.  Is this really the best use of our scarce tax resources?  I don’t think so.  This is a “one size fits all” solution from arrogant State politicians who don’t know our circumstances or understand our needs.  Each local community should be allowed to decide what it needs.  If a community thinks this is important it should be free to implement it.  If it has other more pressing needs (like for roads and bridges) it should be free to reject the early voting “solution” to a “non-problem.” There are also other cheaper alternatives that should be considered.  Some western states have completely eliminated traditional polling places.  They now use absentee ballots for all voting.  That could be done for a fraction of our current cost, and save all of the costs listed above.  This is simply another state mandate.  We don’t need it, and cannot afford it.


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