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Election Day vote centers proposed

A new proposal in the state Senate would allow counties to establish countywide polling places for primary or general elections.

S.5537 is sponsored by Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, said the idea behind creating early voting sites should be extended to Election Day.

“Given the success of this model during the early voting period, it is time for New York to take another step that has proven highly effective in numerous other states: establishing Election Day vote centers,” May said.

Countywide vote centers have been used in Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana. Voters coming to vote are checked against an electronic poll book kept at the site.

The first vote centers were created in Colorado in 2003. As more states have been added, vote centers have been said to reduce votes rejected for being in the wrong voting district, makes voting easier and more efficient, can save money by having fewer poll workers and boost turnout.

There are also drawbacks, including the confusion when the creation of voting centers leads to the closure of longtime poll sites, transportation problems for some voters, a dependence on technology that can fail and bring voting to a standstill as happened in Detroit in 2006, increased costs to transition to voting centers and issues with data collection.

Despite the potential issues, May is looking for support to open the Election Day vote center option to county Boards of Election.

“It is time to bring this reform to New York on Election Day,” May wrote. “This legislation will give county election officials the flexibility they need to establish one or more such centers during elections. Just like the established polling places during early voting, these vote centers will allow voters from anywhere within a county to use polling places with such a designation to cast their ballot. The placement and designation of such vote centers would be decided at the discretion of local elections officials, if they choose to pursue the vote center model.”

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