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Election Day 8.JPG

Voting in Cato on Election Day 2017. 

New York counties will receive assistance from the state to implement early voting this year. 

The 2019-20 state budget approved by the state Legislature early Monday includes nearly $25 million to help cover the costs of early voting. In January, New York joined 38 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing early voting before Election Day. 

The budget allocates $14.7 million to help counties purchase software election commissioners have said is necessary for the implementation of early voting. This includes electronic poll books, which are digital voter registration records. 

The funding could be used to purchase other equipment or software, such as on-demand ballot printers and cybersecurity protections. 

There is an additional $10 million in the budget to reimburse local boards of elections for costs associated with the implementation of early voting. 

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY and co-founder of Let NY Vote, said the funding will help New York administer "efficient and accessible elections."

"This budget is a major victory for all New Yorkers who spent countless hours texting, calling, protesting and tweeting to let New York vote!" Lerner added.

Early voting was part of an election reform package passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January. The state established a nine-day early voting period that will conclude on the Sunday before a primary or general election day. 

The new law will require counties to have at least one early voting polling location for every 50,000 registered voters. While that's a minimum standard, counties have the option of offering more polling sites. 

"Early voting is going to be transformative for the system," Cuomo said before he signed the bill in January. 

Supporters hailed the adoption of early voting, but there were questions raised about how it would be funded. Cuomo's budget proposal didn't include any funding for early voting or other election reforms. 

The Cuomo administration's position was that early voting would be funded through the expansion of the internet sales tax to third-party sales on marketplaces and the consolidation of the federal and state primary elections. The election reforms included merging the federal and state primary elections. The federal and state primary date will now be the fourth Tuesday in June. 

But any savings from the primary consolidation won't be realized until next year. That led advocates and election commissioners to push for funding in this year's budget

Some estimates suggested that it would cost at least $25 million to implement early voting. The state Assembly's one-house budget resolution included $27 million alone for the purchase of electronic poll books and on-demand ballot printers and $7 million for other early voting-related costs. The state Senate's budget had $10 million for early voting expenses. 

Last week, the Let NY Vote coalition reiterated its stance that there should be funding in the state budget to help counties institute early voting. The coalition, which consists of good government groups that supported the election reform package, urged Cuomo to "put his money where his mouth is."

The questions about funding for early voting continued during debates over the budget bills. State Sen. Bob Antonacci introduced an amendment that would establish a fund administered by the state comptroller and taxation and finance commissioner to support early voting across the state. Revenue from the state's Abandoned Property Fund would help finance the voting reforms. 

Antonacci's amendment was blocked by state Senate Democrats Sunday. He said his measure would've provided mandate relief to counties. 

"Rather than hearing the outcry from local governments to cut taxes, mandates and regulations which would ultimately curb taxes for New York state residents, the Senate Democrats seem more concerned with checking off something on their 'to-do' list without the adequate state resources for implementation," Antonacci argued. 

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