Why only two early voting locations in Niagara County?

Voters standing in long lines for Niagara Falls early voting wonder why Erie County has 37 sites and Niagara County only two
Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 28, 2020

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — It was another day of long lines as voters waited for approximately 30 minutes to cast their ballots at St. John de LaSalle Church on Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls. The church is one of only two early voting locations in Niagara County, with the other located on the Niagara County Fairgrounds in Lockport.

Voters asked why Erie County has 37 early voting locations while Niagara County only has two?

"I don't think it is working too well. There is only a couple of places to vote and it is freezing outside," said April Daniels who had tried to vote for several days prior but left after seeing long lines.

"I've been in line for about 20 minutes. I'm going to try and make my voice count," added Daniels.

Erie County has more than four times as many people as in Niagara County (918,702 in Erie County and 209,281 in Niagara County according to the U.S. Census), but the number of early voting stations in Erie County is nearly 19 times that of Niagara County.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the Niagara County Board of Elections to find out why.

"This is our first presidential election and we didn't expect it to be like that," said Democratic Elections Commissioner Lora Allen. "We appreciate all of their concerns but we can only improve as we go."

Commissioner Allen said New York State required one early voting site for roughly every 99,000 people. Since Niagara County has only 139,000 registered voters, it was felt that two sites would be sufficient.

In addition, said Allen, past early voting showed there was not a big turnout.

"The last two times that we had early voting, we only had 2,000 people over 9 days," explained the commissioner.

Small staff size of 12 people was another factor as the Niagara County Board of Elections wanted to have its staff on-site at early voting locations to be able to fix any problems quickly.

While Allen said she is aware of the complaints, she worries some voters are being scared-off by the lines without realizing how quickly they are moving. "You just can't drive by and complain about the experience without giving it a try."

Inside the two early voting locations are several stations allowing multiple voters at one time to sign the electronic poll book and fill out ballots. Allen said the goal is to get voters in-and-out by 20 to 30 minutes.

Voters at the Niagara Falls location told Reporter Ed Reilly that it was taking about a half-hour from lining up to casting a vote.

While there was a steady stream of people at the Niagara County Fairgrounds locations, there were no lines when 7 Eyewitness News visited, and voters said they felt it was going faster than they expected.

Early voting continues in NYS until this Sunday, November 1.