Groups that have advocated for early voting are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include funding for early voting in his executive budget proposal.
Last week, Cuomo released his 2019-20 budget plan and reiterated his support for making New York the 38th state to allow early voting. However, his executive budget doesn't include direct funding for early voting.
The exclusion seemed to surprise early voting supporters, who recalled that Cuomo added $7 million to his budget proposal last year to fund early voting. The funding wasn't included in the final budget agreement and the state Legislature didn't pass early voting before the end of session.
With Democrats in control of both houses of the state Legislature this year, there is a greater likelihood of early voting being adopted. But questions remain about how it will be funded.
Two members of the Let NY Vote Coalition, New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes and Rev. Dr. Robert M. Waterman, asked Cuomo to include funding for early voting. Another proponent of early voting, Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny, explained why the funding is needed.
"We urge both the Legislature and the governor to fulfill their promise to provide state funding for these reforms, especially early voting, so boards of elections will have the resources to fully enact these reforms so their maximum potential to transform New York's electoral landscape can be reached," Czarny said.
The New York State Association of Counties, which lobbies on behalf of counties across the state, joined the coalition in its call for funding.
After the state Legislature passed a bill last week to establish a nine-day early voting period before election days, the state Association of Counties said Cuomo and lawmakers should include funding in the state budget to "cover the cost of implementing early voting, otherwise it will be one more unfunded state mandated cost on local property taxpayers."
Some estimates suggest it will cost counties outside New York City between $500,000 and $1 million each to implement early voting.
The Cuomo administration released a statement last week that claimed there is already funding in the budget proposal to support early voting. Dani Lever, Cuomo's communications director, said the proposed consolidation of the federal and state primaries would save counties $25 million and "eliminating the internet tax advantage" — collecting more sales taxes on internet sales — would help fund early voting.
Counties, though, aren't convinced that would be enough.
"[I]t would be helpful for the state to provide appropriate resources to counties, who administer the election system," the state Association of Counties said. "NYSAC urges our state leaders to fully fund these important voting reforms in the 2019-20 state budget."
There is a possibility Cuomo could add funding for early voting to his budget. Next month, he will release his 30-day amendments to the state budget plan. That was the method he used last year to add the $7 million for early voting to the executive budget.
The state Assembly and Senate will likely have early voting in each of their budget proposals, but those plans won't be released until March.