Election Day 4.JPG

Voters cast ballots on Election Day in November at Sacred Heart Church in Owasco. 

Both houses of the New York State Legislature have made establishing early voting a priority in their budget resolutions. 

The budget plan released by the Assembly Democratic majority late Monday contains $27 million to help counties establish early voting. County boards of elections would be eligible to receive grants to purchase electronic poll books, a digital version of the voter registration rolls. 

Election commissioners say electronic poll books would make it easier to administer early voting. County boards of elections have books containing the voter registration rolls, but for many counties it would be a burden to transport each book to the early voting site and have inspectors sift through the books to confirm a voter's registration. 

Under the Assembly's proposal, counties could receive grants up to $2,500 for the purchase of each electronic poll book. County boards of elections could purchase one electronic poll book for every 1,250 registered voters. 

The funding would also assist county boards of elections with the purchase of on-demand printers. The printers provide a quick way to print ballots, especially for early voting. 

Counties would receive grants of up to $3,500 for the purchase of each on-demand printer. Counties would be allowed to purchase at least one on-demand printer and two additional printers for each early voting polling site. 

An additional $7 million is in the state Assembly's budget proposal to help counties adopt early voting and other election reforms. The state Senate's budget includes $10 million for voting reforms. 

The state Legislature passed a bill in January to allow early voting in New York. It was part of an election reform package the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate advanced. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measures later that month. 

New York is one of 39 states to authorize early voting. The state's early voting period will begin on a Saturday 10 days before the election. The nine-day early voting period will conclude on the Sunday before Election Day. 

This year, early voting will be ready for the general election in November. 

Counties will be required to have at least one early voting polling location for every 50,000 registered voters. Counties could opt to open more sites to make it convenient for voters. 

There is a question of how early voting will be funded. Estimates suggest counties outside of New York City would need at least $25 million to implement early voting. Cash-strapped counties say they can't do it on their own and would need state help to purchase electronic poll books and establish early voting sites. 

However, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget plan it didn't include any direct funding to support early voting. The Cuomo administration explained that early voting would be funded through the consolidation of the federal and state primaries and collecting taxes on internet marketplace sales. 

The tax collections wouldn't begin until June and while counties agree that there will be a savings from consolidating the primaries, it wouldn't be seen until next year. 

The Let NY Vote coalition, which supports early voting and other election reforms, urged Cuomo to add funding to his budget proposal. When his 30-day budget amendments were released, he didn't include any funding for early voting. 

State lawmakers have said funding early voting is a priority. The state Senate's one-house budget bill will be released this week and it's expected that it will contain aid for early voting. 

One-house budget bills are part of the state budget process. Each house of the state Legislature approves its own budget as it negotiates with the governor on a final agreement. 

Cuomo and state legislative leaders hope to finalize the 2019-20 budget by March 31. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.