Cayuga County election commissioners planned to have one early voting poll site this year, but new information about state funding could help the agency open two additional polling places.
Katie Lacey, the Democratic elections commissioner, said Wednesday that the county may have three polling locations when the early voting period commences in October.
Lacey and Cherl Heary, the Republican elections commissioner, agreed on one location — the Clifford Park Clubhouse in Auburn — as an early voting polling location. With limited resources available, they planned to have the city site serve as the lone early voting polling place in the county.
The new state law requires the county to have one early voting site for every 50,000 registered voters. As of February, Cayuga County has 49,324 voters.
But Lacey explained that proposed state regulations detail how counties would be reimbursed for implementing early voting. The reimbursement is based on the number of early voting sites and the equipment needed for those locations, she said.
The 2019-20 state budget includes nearly $25 million to help counties implement early voting. There is $10 million available for counties to buy equipment and cover other early voting-related expenses, and $14.7 million for the purchase of electronic poll books — software that would replace the paper books poll workers use to sign in voters.
Heary and Lacey considered having additional polling sites for early voting due to the county's geographic size. But they thought it would be costly to open multiple polling sites for local elections that historically have low voter turnout.
After learning more about how the state funding would be distributed, the commissioners will likely add more early voting polling sites in the towns of Conquest and Venice. The town halls in both municipalities could serve as polling places. Lacey said they plan to inspect Cayuga County Highway Department garages in Conquest and Venice to determine if the facilities could host early voting.
Lacey acknowledged that one plan was for the county to have one early voting site this year, then add more sites in 2020 — a presidential election year. But with an estimated cost of $30,000 for each polling location, it would be challenging for the county to cover those expenses without help from the state.
"If we're planning on having three locations for presidential years, we're going to have to buy the equipment sometime," she said. "We don't want to pass up the state aid for it."
To administer early voting, the county plans to purchase around 50 electronic poll books. The e-poll books, which cost at least $1,000 each, would replace the paper poll books for early voting and on election days.
With e-poll books, internet access could be a problem in the rural towns. The county, Lacey said, may need to purchase routers and other equipment to ensure connectivity is maintained at early voting poll sites.
The board also plans to buy on-demand ballot printers, which will allow voters to go to any of the three polling locations during the early voting period.
The nine-day early voting period will begin Saturday, Oct. 26 and ends Sunday, Nov. 3 — two days before Election Day. Early voting poll sites must be open for at least eight hours on weekdays and at least five hours on weekends. For at least two weekdays, one polling place must remain open until 8 p.m.
"There's going to be a lot of extra accommodations for voters," Lacey said. "Hopefully it's going to generate a lot of interest and a lot more voters. That is the purpose."