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Expecting ‘unprecedented’ voter turnout, Brooklyn pol wants more early voting

November 29, 2019 Paula Katinas

New York State should open more polling sites for early voting when the presidential election rolls around next year, according to a Brooklyn lawmaker who said he will work on giving voters easier access to the ballot box.

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, chairperson of the Senate’s Elections Committee, said the state expects an “unprecedented turnout” for the presidential election in 2020.

Myrie, a freshman Democrat representing Crown Heights and parts of Brownsville, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Park Slope and Sunset Park, held a joint hearing on Nov. 20 with Assemblymember Charles Lavine, chairperson of the Assembly Elections Committee, to look at the inaugural early voting process and discuss ways to improve the system.

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Several witnesses at the hearing stated that a good way to make the system work better would be to open up additional polling sites for early voting, according to Myrie, who was the original sponsor of the bill to create early voting in New York State. The measure was approved by the state legislature earlier this year.

“Testimony after testimony called for more poll sites and more money in the state budget to help make early voting as widely available as possible,” Myrie said. “With unprecedented turnout expected in next year’s elections, we’re also committed to working on some of the administrative and procedural challenges like countywide voting centers, increasing the options for poll sites, and ensuring accessibility so that everyone in our state is empowered to make their voice heard at the ballot box.”

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (third from left) held a hearing with Assemblymembe Charles Lavine (second from left) to look at how New York State’s first-ever early voting system worked. Photo: Sen. Zellnor Myrie’s Office

The 2019 general election marked the first test for the state’s early voting system. There were 248 specially designated polling sites around the state open from Oct. 26 until Nov. 3 to accommodate voters. Unofficial results showed that more than 50,000 people across the state participated in early voting, Myrie said.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate, a Democrat representing parts of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park, said the early voting numbers in Southwest Brooklyn were low but added that “it’s hard to judge because this was the first time around.”

New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst was a designated early polling site. “I heard that early voting at New Utrecht High School had about 100 people a day. That’s about 900 people,” Abbate said.


He predicted a larger turnout next year. “People usually come out when there’s a presidential election,” he said.

Lavine said the Nov. 20 hearing, which took place in lower Manhattan, provided useful feedback for lawmakers.

“With this hearing, we had the chance to get feedback from experts and the public on our first implementation, identify the hiccups, and equip us to make our democracy work better than ever,” said Lavine, a Democrat who represents parts of Nassau County.

In 2020, there will be 27 days of early voting: nine each for the presidential primary on April 28, the state and federal primary on June 23, and the General Election on Nov. 3.


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