NY Budget Deal Authorizes Statewide Early Poll Opening Time for Primaries

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A new budget deal in New York State will create statewide 6AM poll opening times for primary elections, eliminating some disparities between localities across the Empire State. The Democrat and Chronicle has more:

New York’s polling places will open their doors at 6 a.m. statewide for primary elections beginning in 2020, according to an emerging budget deal at the state Capitol.

A budget bill introduced late Thursday mandates that all 62 counties open their primary polls at the same time, ending an often-criticized, decades-old practice where 13 counties — including all of New York City — opened at 6 a.m. and all others opened at noon.

Polls close at 9 p.m. in New York.

The wide-ranging bill is part of a $175 billion state budget expected to be put to a vote Sunday.

Government-reform groups had long pushed for the change, arguing that the non-uniform opening times disenfranchised voters upstate, where all counties but Erie opened at noon.

That gave upstate voters, including those in bigger counties like Monroe and Onondaga, less time to vote than downstate voters.

The counties that already opened at 6 a.m. were largely in the New York City area, including Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and both Long Island counties.

Dutchess County was the most recent addition, joining the early-opening counties last year.

The new measure will apply to all primary elections after April 2020. All polling places already open at 6 a.m. for general elections.

The issue, as it always is, has been (and continues to be) money:

What remains unclear, however, is whether any state money will be allocated to cover counties’ costs of opening polling places earlier.

County governments have raised concern about the issue in the past, arguing the cost would be a burden.

The new polling hours will also coincide with the state’s adoption of early voting, which will allow voters to cast a ballot in a nine-day period ahead of most elections.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers are aiming to pass the state budget by the end of Sunday, the deadline for an on-time spending plan.

Assuming the deal passes, it will be interesting to see if turnout in affected counties improves or if existing voters just cast ballots earlier in the day. If it’s the latter, counties’ concerns about the resources required for the change will be well-founded. They only way to tell will be to … stay tuned!

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