New York State Sees Voting Reforms Ahead of 2019 Elections

This article was originally published in BU Pipe Dream on October 31, 2019

For the first time in state history, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to participate in an early voting process for 2019 general elections.

New York joins 38 other states with the early voting change, extending the voting days from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3. There are three early voting centers where voters in Broome County can go to vote: the Broome County Public Library, the Oakdale Mall and the George F. Johnson Memorial Library.

According to Christina Dutko, deputy commissioner for the Broome County Board of Elections, the new early voting change comes with the implementation of electronic polling.

“Since we have vot[ing] centers, it is now written into the law that we are able to have electronic poll books,” Dutko wrote in an email. “The company that we went with utilizes iPads, so now instead of going and signing in the paper booklet that had your signatures, voters will be signing in with a stylus on the iPad.”

According to Broome Votes, the record of voters are uploaded into an electronic poll book, and by scanning a voter’s ID or searching for the voter’s name through a typed search, a voter is allowed to vote if their record shows up. Poll books are encrypted to ensure updates of votes and security in the voting process. The changes are expected to make voting a faster process and avoid crowded and long lines that usually plague voting centers on Election Day.

Lejing Lin, political director for Binghamton University College Democrats and a sophomore majoring in political science, wrote in an email that her experience with early voting in Broome County was one of ease.

“My friend and I went [to the Oakdale Mall voting center] on the first day of early voting and we were in and out in under five minutes so it was super convenient and fast,” Lin wrote. “So, I really recommend doing that to avoid the wait time on Election Day.”

With these implementations, legislators also hope voter turnout will increase. Alison Handy Twang, associate director for the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), wrote in an email that early voting is a positive change for students.

“Early voting will be beneficial to students who might have trouble making it to the polls on Election Day due to classes or other obligations,” Handy Twang wrote. “Especially for off-campus students who may be on campus most of the day Tuesday for classes, early voting provides the option to vote at an off-campus site at a day and time that is more convenient for them.”

According to Handy Twang, the CCE has tried to make students aware of early voting through presentations, tabling and social media. On their website, there are available bus routes for students to travel to early voting centers in Broome County. Students can also text BinghamtonU to 555-888 for more information on voting.

Lin said she hopes the change in early voting will increase student turnout.

“This can hopefully help to increase voter-turnout rates, especially since it’s very low during local election years,” Lin wrote. “I don’t know how much of the student body is aware of early voting if they stay on campus and are not really involved in politics.”

Kira Hawes, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies, said she found out about early voting through on-campus organizations such as the Roosevelt Institute and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, student-run organizations that work to engage students with voting processes and political discussions.

“Many students have busy lives between classes, studying and extracurricular activities and early voting allows students to fit voting into their own schedule,” Hawes wrote in an email. “I think on-campus organizations such as the [Andrew] Goodman Foundation and the Roosevelt Institute did a great job getting the student body informed about early voting through posters and social media.”

Brendan Nevins, a sophomore majoring in political science, wrote in an email that social media also informed him on early voting.

“I am aware of early voting thanks to the group Bing Votes which I follow on Instagram,” Nevins wrote. “I do not believe the general student body is aware due to the fact that I only learned through the Instagram page which I would assume most do not follow. I think for those who have become aware of it, there will be a significant boost in student turnout because it makes the whole process easier.”

Makenna Athanassiou, a sophomore majoring in biology, wrote in an email that she was not aware early voting was an option, but believes it will be beneficial for many student voters.

“I was not aware of early voting,” Athanassiou wrote. “I do not think many students are aware either especially if they are not fully following politics in the media, like myself.”

Handy Twang said the trend of voting reforms could aid young voters who have began turning out to the polls, and that she hopes it stays that way.

“We’ve seen steady growth in student voting over the last few years and expect that to continue,” Handy Twang wrote. “Early voting and the other New York voting reforms, including the statewide transfer of registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, will help students and all voters have greater access to participate in the democratic process.”