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Saratoga County rejects early voting

Saratoga County rejects early voting

Supervisors also declare opioid epidemic a public nuisance
Saratoga County rejects early voting
Residents vote at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Nov. 7, 2017.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors shot down an early voting proposal made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at their meeting on Tuesday. 

Cuomo's proposal would require every county in New York to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day, implement an automatic voter registration system at the DMV and allow New York residents to register and vote on the same day. 

The proposal was announced at his January 2018 State of the State address. 

On Feb. 12, Cuomo said he would allocate approximately $7 million to counties across New York to offer early voting.

Saratoga County Commissioner of Elections Roger Schiera said the governor's proposal would be costly to the county. 

"The $7 million is a one-time appropriation," he said. "We would need extensive upgrades to our technology to make this work and not make a mockery of our current election system.

"Electronic poll books would cost the the county between $800,000 and $1 million."

Schiera added, "It's an expensive gamble."

Saratoga Springs supervisors Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch were the only supervisors who supported Cuomo's early voting proposal. 

"I think open access to voting is essential," Gaston said. "I support early voting, opt-out automatic registration and expanded absentee ballot voting.

Hadley Supervisor Arthur Wright said while $7 million sounds like a lot of money, the state would likely pull the funding and the legislation would turn into an unfunded mandate. 

"If you're busy for those 15 hours on Election Day, get an absentee ballot," he said to the audience at Tuesday's meeting. "Nobody on this board wants less voters. The more voters we have the better chance we have of sitting in this seat."

Wright said he wants the governor to show that there is a dedicated funding stream so the county won't be stuck paying for early voting in the future. 

"We support more voter participation, but this is a bad proposal," he said. "There's no funding.

"You want an early vote? Go get an absentee ballot."

Several members of the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County attended Tuesday's meeting to voice their support of the governor's proposal. 

Co-President Barbara Thomas said the organization supports early voting and automatic voter registration because it's important that everyone has the opportunity to take part in elections. 

Thomas said she wasn't surprised that a majority of the supervisors voted to oppose Cuomo's early voting proposal. 

"It's what I expected, because it's sort of the way this board operates," she said. "I don't think I've ever seen them reverse an item on the agenda."

Thomas said state Sens. Kathleen Marchione and Jim Tedisco would take Saratoga County's position into account when they lobby at the state level. 

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors also adopted a local law on Tuesday declaring the opioid epidemic as a public nuisance. 

The law was introduced on Jan. 16 by the Law and Finance Committee. 

Halfmoon Supervisor and Law and Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Tollisen said the law would help the county with its pending litigation in state Supreme Court against 31 pharmaceutical companies that manufacture, distribute and prescribe opioids.

The lawsuit aims to help the county recoup expenses from combating the opioid epidemic. 

Wilton resident Eve Cascone's daughter Katie-Lynn Scheidt of Saratoga Springs overdosed on heroin in October 2014.

"I applaud every step Saratoga County is taking to reduce opioid prescriptions," she said. "New York state is really remiss when it comes to putting laws forth, so if the counties have to take over and do it themselves that's great, because it has to stop somewhere."

Cascone said her daughter's addiction started with opiates. 

Scheidt's dealer, Matthew Charo, 35, of Saratoga Springs, is in federal prison for 10 years. 

Cascone said her daughter's dealer is behind bars because of a federal law, which states a person is liable if he deals drugs that result in a death. 

"[Without the federal law] he might still be out there or he could've faced a shorter sentence," Cascone said of Charo. "If the federal government can do it and get results, why aren't states acting this way?"

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