Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting his money where his mouth is by adding funding in his 2018-19 state budget proposal for the implementation of early voting in New York.
One of the 30-day budget amendments unveiled by Cuomo's office Monday is approximately $7 million to adopt early voting. The governor has proposed early voting in the past, but never called for state funding to be used to support its implementation.
The funding could help counties that have been wary about early voting because of the additional costs involved. Cuomo's budget amendment seeks to address those concerns.
The estimated cost of implementing early voting, according to Cuomo's executive budget plan, is $6.4 million.
"Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and no one should have to choose between exercising their sacred right to vote and going to work, school or personal commitments," Cuomo said in a statement. "By offering early voting across the state, we are further breaking down barriers to democracy and helping to ensure that all New Yorkers' voices are heard."
Cuomo's budget amendment was lauded by Dustin Czarny, an elections commissioner in Onondaga County. One of the challenges posed by early voting, he noted, is the cost. Before the amendment was announced, counties would be expected to cover the costs of implementing early voting.
Czarny, who supports early voting, called the amendment "a very significant development."
"I think the governor, to be quite honest, is putting his money where his mouth is," he said. "It's a positive development for early voting."
Early voting is one component of Cuomo's Democracy Agenda, which includes other electoral reforms. He also proposed adopting same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration in an attempt to boost turnout.
While 15 states have some form of same-day voter registration and 10 state have implemented automatic voter registration, most have an early voting system in place.
There are 37 states that allow early voting before Election Day. New York is one of 13 states that doesn't have some form of early voting and requires and excuse to obtain an absentee ballot.
Under Cuomo's proposal, New York would require counties to have at least one polling location for every 50,000 residents. In Cayuga County, for example, one polling site would be required.
The state would mandate that the polling sites be open for a 12-day period before Election Day. The polls would be open for a minimum of eight hours on weekdays and at least five hours on weekends.
The proposal must be approved by the state Legislature. Cuomo has made it clear it's a major budget priority for him. He has included it in his State of the State agenda before, but it hasn't advanced beyond that stage.
There is strong support for early voting among New York voters. A new Siena College poll released Monday found 67 percent of those surveyed support instituting early voting.