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Elections commissioners say early voting in NY was successful, but could improve

Jason Smith
WRVO News (file photo)
Early voting in Oswego.

Tuesday is Election Day, but for the first time, more than 8,000 residents in Onondaga County already voted during New York State’s nine days of early voting. Local elections commissioners are split on the success of the new rollout. 

About 1.9% of all registered voters in New York took part in early voting. Onondaga County’s turnout was higher with 2.8% of active voters. Still, Michele Sardo, the county’s Republican elections commissioner, said turnout was lower than expected.

“But I think everybody is still a little bit nervous and a little bit skeptical about it and they still want to vote on Election Day," Sardo said. "But I think next year for the presidential elections, I think there is where you’re going to see the higher volume going to vote for early voting.”

Sardo said early voting was kind of a waste of money based on the turnout this year. New York State is reimbursing counties $10 million for early voting operations and $14 million for new electronic poll books. For Onondaga County, the operating cost of early voting is around $90,000.

It was not outrageously expensive in Oswego County, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Laura Brazak. They did not use the new electronic poll books. And Oswego County only had one location open for early voting, compared to Onondaga County’s six locations.

"We did have some people that were thrilled," Brazak said. "I think we had two people who thought it was actually too far to travel."

Oswego County's early voter turnout was lower than the state average, at just under 1% of active voters. But Brazak said those who did come out, were overwhelmingly supportive and positive.

"I think that considering the time constraints, and the fact that we didn't know we were going to have to do this until very late in the game, I think it went very well," Brazak said. 

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.