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As New York Moves To Expand Early Voting, Suffolk County Wants More Resources

AP Photo/Ben Curtis

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to make permanent many of the temporary election reforms put in place for the 2020 election during the pandemic.

Suffolk County election officials want to make sure there’s money attached to those 2021 goals.

Cuomo said in his 2021 State of the State that he wants to expand early voting. 2020 was the first presidential election that New Yorkers were able to vote early, and 2.5 million did.

Nick Lalota is the Republican commissioner of the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections. He said Cuomo’s effort is well-intentioned but receives poor marks.

“Some things like expanding hours require additional staffing and money. So if the governor included funding in this bill, I probably give it an ‘A,’” Lalota said.

Cuomo also wants lawmakers to pass a measure to ask New Yorkers on the next ballot to change the state constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee voting. And an earlier start for local election boards to count those ballots.

The state allowed for New Yorkers to use coronavirus as a blanket excuse in 2020 to allow millions of voters to cast a ballot by mail.

Those ballots were counted weeks after Election Day in Suffolk County and the rest of the state.

“We need more resources to be able to do that because the qualified employees who would be checking signatures and scanning ballots right now are deployed to early voting places, ensuring that process goes well. And our folks can't be in two places at once,” Lalota said.

LaLota said the state does not have the election infrastructure in place to make this happen without frequent irregularities.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.