A longtime push for early voting in New York took a step forward this week, with Republican Senator Betty Little backing a bill that would allow voters to cast ballots up to two weeks before Election Day.
"The people this would help the most are the families, people who are working with children in school, with sports activities and homework," said Little (R - Queensbury). "They intend to vote; they just don't get there that day."
Little doesn't expect her legislation will cost county governments more money, since many boards of election are already open two weeks in advance in the lead-up to Election Day.
"Being able to go two weeks beforehand if they choose to write the Board of Elections won't cost any more money, and it would allow people a choice," Little said.
New York is one of the few states that does not allow early voting. Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal would set aside money to make it happen. Supporters of the reform rallied at the Capitol this week.
"We have a $168.8 billion budget proposed. That budget estimates it would cost $6.4 million statewide," said Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D - Manhattan). "We think that's a very reasonable expense for a very reasonable reform."
Early voting legislation has struggled to gain traction in the state Senate, narrowly controlled by Republicans. The voting reform push has substantially more support in the Democrat-led Assembly.
"We know that New York state, along with other states, could make it a whole lot easier for people to cast their ballots," said Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D - Glen Cove), "and in the Assembly, we work to intend to work to accomplish that goal."
Some opponents contend smaller and more rural counties would struggle with implementing early voting. Supporters say it's about ballot access for all.
"Their citizens have a right to vote as much as the citizens of anywhere else in the state of New York and anywhere else in the United States of America," Lavine said.
The budget is expected to pass at the end of March, and early voting backers want it taken care of in the spending plan.