New York early voting reform poses extra costs for local counties

Feb 6, 2019

A voting reform package approved in Albany this year will have some costs to local governments. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is among those calling on the state to fully fund the early voting portion of the package.

Early voting this year will allow voters to cast ballots in person 10 days before an election. McMahon said that is going to mean more expenses for the counties that run the Board of Elections.

“We know we're going to need more poll workers to pay for e-books, some cybersecurity upgrades, for that time period,” McMahon said. “So, our early estimates are anywhere from a half a million to a million dollars.”

A survey of local elections commissioners estimates the cost of early voting at almost $23 million across all of upstate.

The problem is there is no money in the proposed state budget to pay these extra costs. Originally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested consolidation of primaries would create some revenue for counties, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020, and the legislature voted to begin early voting in 2019. So, McMahon and others are urging Albany to come up with a funding stream to cover those costs.  

“This is the definition of an unfunded mandate,” McMahon said. “We’re ok with early voting. We’re ok with that. It’s just the fact that they aren’t paying for it yet."