According to the Gazette newspaper Governor Mario Cuomo is proposing to expand opportunities to register and vote. https://dailygazette.com/article/2018/02/27/saratoga-county-supervisors-adopt-opioid-law
From the Gazette: “Cuomo’s proposal would require every county in New York to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day, implement an automatic voter registration system at the DMV and allow New York residents to register and vote on the same day.”
At their regular monthly meeting the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted 21 to 2 to oppose Cuomo’s proposal. The dissenting votes came from Saratoga Springs Supervisors Tara Gaston and Matt Veitch. I have to give Matt Veitch, who is a Republican, credit for breaking with his fellow Republicans on this vote. It’s something that rarely happens. Tara Gaston is one of only two Democrats on the Board. The only other Democrat on the Board of Supervisors, Thomas Richardson of Mechanicville, voted with the Republican majority.
Here is an email I received from Tara Gaston regarding the vote:
The item voted on regarding early voting was a part of the Board’s 2018 Legislative Agenda, which the Board uses for state/local advocacy as you know. Item #3 of the agenda pushes back against early voting and automatic voter registration. I moved for the item to be removed from the legislative agenda but the motion failed, with only Supervisor Veitch seconding and voting with me. Supervisor Veitch and I then voted against the Agenda as a whole. We were the only two to do so. I hope this helps.
Supervisor Tara N. Gaston
The February 28 edition of the Saratogian quotes the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Ed Kinowsku, as stating that “the county is not against early voting.” Kinowski goes on to assert that no one “knows exactly yet what the full proposal is and its impact on the county.” If that is the case, it would seem premature for our county to take a position on the issue either for or against.
The Saratogian article quotes Roger Schiera, the county Republican Commissioner of Elections as characterizing the proposal as an “administrative nightmare” which would increase the county’s vulnerability to people voting at more than one location. He warned that the electronic polling books required to prevent this fraud would cost “at least $500,000.00”
Interestingly, in the Times Union article on this meeting, Wendy Liberatore reported that Mr. Scheira estimated that the cost to implement all of the the governor’s proposal could be $800,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. In the Gazette he is quoted as asserting that the electronic polling books alone would cost between $800,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. According to the Times Union story, Mr. Schiera was unable to provide any analysis supporting his numbers when asked for the information by Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston.
I called Bill Fruci who is the Democratic Commissioner of Elections. He told me that while he has great respect for his colleague, Mr. Scheira, he is unclear how he arrived at the cost in terms of the required electronic polling books. Mr. Fruci believes that the county could efficiently implement the three sites and the other requirements at a reasonable cost, especially in light of making voting easier for the people of Saratoga County.
The Saratogian has an article on the controversy and vote as well
Wendy Liberatore’s article was fun as it provided extensive coverage of the people who turned out to oppose the supervisor action. Here is her piece https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/County-supervisors-reject-support-of-early-12714609.php
As a side bar to this story, I was struck by a statement made by Barbara Thomas at the meeting. Ms. Thomas has held leadership positions in the League of Women Voters for decades. Ms. Thomas’ career was with the local chapter of Planned Parenthood consistent with her advocacy on behalf of women’s rights.
In the Gazette article, Ms. Thomas proclaimed that it is important that everyone has the opportunity to take part in elections.
I am reminded that Ms. Thomas, who served on the now defunct Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, not only advocated that the vote on her group’s proposed charter change be held in May following the Memorial Day weekend holiday but asserted that more people would turn out for this special election than would if it were held as part of the general election.
It is regrettable that Ms. Thomas did not demonstrate the same commitment to inclusiveness when she campaigned for charter change.