GUEST COLUMN: Early voting offers unique opportunity to head to the polls

Modified: October 14, 2019 8:38am

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For the first time in the history of New York State, residents are eligible to cast an early voting ballot for the 2019 General Election. While Election Day this year is designated as Nov. 5, all active registered voters in Erie County can visit any of the 37 early voting locations starting Saturday, Oct. 26 and continuing through Sunday, Nov. 3.

Early voting provides voters flexibility in deciding when and where they will take the time to participate in this important democratic process. Each polling site will utilize state-of-the-art electronic polling books that will allow eligible voters to check in and have a paper ballot printed for their election district. Voters will then be provided a privacy folder and a place to sit and cast their ballot, just like in any other election. All ballots will be securely stored inside locked bins and continuously monitored at each polling place until they are removed each night, at which point that day’s vote count will be taken to the Board of Elections. Using the electronic polling books will help move along the check-in process and help confirm the validation of each voter’s registration data, which means that no one will be able to vote more than once.

I believe the introduction of early voting in New York will help eligible voters avoid any potential barriers that some people face when they only have one day to vote. The ability to vote prior to Election Day should allow individuals who have work and/or family responsibilities and obligations to be able to use their right to vote in elections that determine who will represent them.

Some people are not aware or have not yet been paying much attention to the 2019 General Election because there are no federal positions on this year’s ballot, with some individuals instead focusing on next year’s presidential primary and other expected races that will be on the 2020 ballot. This year’s elections are important and I encourage all eligible voters to take the time to educate themselves about who is on the ballot in your local races for public office.

An online resource you can easily access to learn more about early voting can be found at Listed there are the hours of operation and addresses of all 37 locations that will be open for early voting. In addition, if you have specific questions about your voter eligibility or anything else concerning voting in Erie County, you can call the Erie County Board of Elections at 858-8891.

Introducing the use of early voting will give people more opportunities to cast their ballot. I am optimistic that early voting will improve voter engagement and allow for more people to participate in this important process. Please help spread the word about early voting and encourage eligible voters you know to participate in the electoral process.