NEW YORK (AP) — New York state’s first experiment with early voting went smoothly in a quiet election year ahead of the 2020 presidential race, state and local election officials said Wednesday.
While it’s still unclear how early voting impacted turnout, the officials praised the rollout at a hearing Wednesday.
“Voters reported enjoying the convenience of selecting a day and having time to go and vote,” Robert Brehm and Todd Valentine, the co-executive directors of the New York State Board of Elections, said in a statement. “Wait times were minimal and the experience was streamlined.”
The officials also highlighted that county boards of elections launched early voting “in a narrow time frame and with minimal fiscal support.”
It’s unclear just how much early voting has cost counties. State grants of $14 million for electronic poll books and $10 million for early voting were available to counties that applied.
The State Board of Elections is set to meet with local election officials in December, and officials plan to report their findings about cost and implementation issues to lawmakers.
Over 256,000 people cast their ballots before Election Day between Oct. 26 and Nov. 3, according to unofficial figures provided by the state Board of Elections, which says New York has nearly 12 million active registered voters. Nassau County saw about 30,000 early voters, while several more rural counties, including Washington, saw roughly 300 voters cast ballots early.
Elections officials are still reviewing turnout data, but unofficial figures show New York City and several counties saw slightly higher turnout on 2018 Election Day compared with 2015 — the last time there was an election preceding a presidential election. That includes Schohaire County, which saw over 56% turnout on November’s Election Day, up from 35% in 2015.
New York City, meanwhile, had 14% turnout on this year’s Election Day, compared with 6.6% in 2015. City voters faced several ballot questions, including a successful campaign to allow future voters to rank candidates in certain races.
Still other counties saw a dropoff in their overall numbers: Albany County’s turnout was 30.9%, down from 33% of voters in 2015.
Early voting rates were also a mixed bag — about one in five of the votes cast in Erie County were early. Meanwhile, just 2% of votes in Steuben County were cast early.
Some experts have said early voting could be just another option for voters who otherwise would have turned out on Election Day.
Voter turnout in 2020 may also be boosted by a new state law that allows voters to take off time from work to vote on Election Day.