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Elections officials ready for early voting in New York

Jason Smith
WRVO News (file photo)

Early voting begins in New York state this weekend, and while elections officials are prepared, they aren’t sure how many voters will choose to cast a ballot in a relatively new way to vote in New York.

Early voting hit the Empire State last November, after a series of voting reforms quickly moved through the state legislature. But this year is the first time New Yorkers will be able to vote early in a presidential election. And this year, a hotly contested race for president is expected to translate into high voter turnout. Between that and concerns about going to crowded polls because of COVID-19, early voting could prove very popular.

But elections officials like Madison County Democratic Commissioner Laura Costello won’t make a prediction.

“We’re anticipating a very big turnout in early voting, it seems easier than Election Day, but we have no idea,” Costello said.

Early voting begins on Saturday and stretches nine days through Sunday, November 1. Hours and polling places vary by county. For example, most small, rural counties in central and northern New York, like Madison County, will only have one polling place open for early voting.

(Find more information on early voting with WRVO's Voting Guide)

Costello said voters who live in Madison County can come to the Madison County Board of Elections building in Wampsville. She and Republican Elections Commissioner Mary Eggar admit the location will be a haul for anyone who doesn’t live in the northwestern portion of the county. But locations in southern parts of the county were hard to find. And adding in limitations because of COVID-19, and the county building proved to be the best site.

“It’s set up just like your poll site, and because of COVID, set up six-foot distance, it just makes it a good place for these times,” she said.

Larger counties with larger populations have more early ballot locations. Onondaga County has six early voting locations. Republican Elections Commissioner Michelle Sardo expects a few of those locations to get the biggest crowds.

"Clay Town Hall is huge, and there’s a lot of parking. So they get a lot of traffic,” Sardo said. “And then you get DeWitt which also gets a lot of traffic, those are the two heaviest voting areas.”

Voters can go to any early voting location to cast a ballot, as long as it is in their home county.

“We don’t have actual ballots like you would see on Election Day,” Sardo said. “We have poll prints at these six sites, so once you sign your name in, your receipt is printed today you already signed in. You hand it to another inspector at another table, and your ballot will print out.”

Costello is a big fan of the early voting concept.

“It’s really hard to vote on just one Tuesday in November. So I think with the weekends, and the evenings, it’s a great idea,” she said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.