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Central NY Republicans say voting reforms are costly, could disenfranchise voters

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

Local elected officials are reacting to voting reform measures passed in the Democratic-controlled New York State Legislature last week and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Thursday. While some Republicans supported the efforts, others said the changes are too costly and could disenfranchise voters.

The bills include expanding early voting 10 days before an election and combining the separate state and federal primaries to the same day in June. Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny says having one, instead of two primaries will save Onondaga County $174,000.

“Some of these voting reforms are going to cost money," Czarny said. "Some of these voting reforms are going to save money. But we believe all of them put together will increase participation and that’s the goal.”

Oswego County Republican Assemblyman Will Barclay voted against the 10-day early voting period, saying it will cost more, and could increase voter fraud. Local governments will have to keep polling places open longer.

Below is Barclay's full statement on the voting bills from last week.

The Assembly Majority passed early voting measures today that, if signed into law, would largely result in unfunded mandates, confusion, and would change our current system when it does not need to be changed. I voted against these measures. We place enough unfunded mandates on our localities. In addition, Election Day is always the first Tuesday in November. Stretching this day into weeks and offering same-day registration would not only cost more money but it would make the systems that are already in place vulnerable to voter fraud. We have an absentee ballot system that offers people a chance to vote if they anticipate having trouble getting to the polls on Election Day. In my mind, it is part of our duty as citizens to vote on Election Day or obtain an absentee ballot. Elections are fluid by nature and a lot can happen in the days leading up to the election. If the voter has a change of heart after they voted early for a certain candidate, there is no way to change their vote back. If the end goal is to improve voter turnout, I have yet to see evidence that proves these early voting measures will do so. People who are going to vote already largely do.

Republican Assemblyman Gary Finch, who represents parts of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, and Onondaga counties, also voted against early voting. Syracuse-area Republican State Sen. Bob Antonacci voted against it as well, and also voted against merging the primaries for this June, because he said it rushes the petition process. Local and state primaries were previously held in September.

“We’re going to have people going out at the end of February getting signatures in upstate New York," Antonacci said. "When you’ve got a city-centric New York City liberal machine looking at this stuff, they don’t have the same understanding of what we’re going through in upstate New York.”

Antonacci said the expedited schedule will benefit incumbents with campaign infrastructure already in place and challengers need to make a decision about running in the fall in the next two to three weeks. But he still has concerns even after candidates adjust to the new schedule for next year. 

“You’re going to have challengers that are going to have to decide in the fall of the previous year if they want to run," Antonacci said. "They’re going to have to build their team up through the holidays and then basically be ready to go, middle of February. That’s pretty tough in upstate New York. It could actually disenfranchise some candidates, which in turn, disenfranchises the voters.”

Nevertheless, he said local Republicans are gearing up to get candidates ready. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.