Local election officials doing best with pandemic voting and new procedures
Oct 13, 2020 6:33 am
Amanda Fries surveys local election officials in the Times Union about what they have, and do not have, to be ready for the current election season. Last week, local election officials were overwhelmed by the deadline to register. Currently, they are sending out applications for voting by mail, and absentee ballots, and preparing for early in-person voting which begins Oct. 24. The last day of the election is Nov. 3, when in-person voting will happen at traditional sites, and postmarks need to get on absentee ballots. Local election officials expect a record number of absentee voting and are working on a number of recently enacted voter protections. For instance, in September Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo required election officials to have drop boxes for ballots at every polling site. But election officials have found that only a few companies make the boxes, and county officials across the country are competing to install them in time. “I think there was a lack of thinking ahead on how we’re going to get drop boxes,” said Elizabeth Soto, Democratic elections commissioner for the Dutchess County Board of Elections. Election officials are also tasked with telling absentee voters about any issues with their ballots. The other Dutchess County Board of Elections Commissioner, Erik J. Haight, a Republican, said, “Any time you change the rules in the middle of the game, it’s going to cause confusion and strife,” Haight said. “The electorate is bound to get confused by all these executive orders that the governor is handing down to us without any funding at all.” Local election officials have more to do this fall than past election seasons, and did not get the funds Democrats set aside in the second coronavirus bill for the election passed by the U.S. House, but that was never taken up by the U.S. Senate. Doug Kellner, the state Board of Elections’ Democratic co-chair said, “The governor has provided some funds for security and technical issues, and of course last year the state provided substantial funds so the counties could buy new equipment in order to implement early voting, but there is no new money for the general election coming from the state." Kellner says, "people need to apply early, fill out their ballot and get it in the mail early.” Read more about this story in the Times Union.