Steuben Board of Elections announces early voting days, other must-know voting news

BATH — Steuben County residents are reaching into their mailboxes this week and retrieving postcards from the county's board of elections. While some people may be tempted to toss the postcards as junk mail, changes in New York State voting dates merit giving the postcards a second glance.

Veronica Olin, the Republican commissioner of the Steuben County Board of Elections, knows exactly how many blue-colored, voter mail-check postcards were sent out this month to the county electorate: that number is 53,933.

It’s probably advisable to give the postcard a close read after taking it out of the mailbox or post office box, and then plan on keeping it in an easy to remember location for future reference.

Here’s why:

The cards have handy, essential information for registered voters including their party affiliation, if any; their voting district and the site where they should go to cast their ballots; important election dates, including for the June 25 state and local primaries (the days of September primaries are over in New York state) and the Nov. 5 General Election; and helpful instructions for voters who have changed their address, or may require an absentee ballot, or are interested in voter registration or becoming an Election Day worker.

Of particular note on the backside of the postcard is information on early onsite voting, which is being offered this year for the first time in New York State.

“The days for early voting are standard across New York State,” Olin told The Spectator on Thursday. “The only thing that may vary (among counties) is the hours, as each county can decide to remain open beyond the hours required by the law.”

There will be nine days of early voting in Steuben County this year, all occurring in the days before the November General Election. Early voting will take place from Saturday, Oct. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 3. There will be one site for all early voting, as the new state election rules require one early voting polling place for every 50,000 registered voters.

“We are pretty sure (early voting) is going to be in the new county annex building (in Bath), on the second floor, in the conference room,” Olin said.

The hours for each day of early voting will vary, depending on how many hours the new law requires. Different days require a different number of hours. Olin said early voting on Saturday and Sunday will take place from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Steuben County officials are finalizing the early voting details and all the information, including hours and the polling place, will be published soon.

Next year will see a greater number of early voting days in Steuben County as the program is expanded to the primary elections as well. In addition to the June state and local primaries next year, 2020 is a presidential election year, with the Democrats nearly guaranteed to have a competitive primary.

Olin expects some 30 days of early voting next year. The date of New York State’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary has not been officially determined. Steuben election officials expect it to be scheduled anywhere from early February to the end of April.

Olin suggests voters take extra care to note their party affiliation near the upper left corner on the backside of the postcard. Voters should make sure the political party listed — if there is one — is the party they wish to be a member of. For instance, a voter who wants to cast a ballot in the 2020 Democratic presidential party must be a registered Democrat to do so. Voters who are not currently members of the party whose primary they wish to vote in next year have limited time to change their party registration. The same goes for the Republican primary or any other party primary.

The Board of Elections must receive the change in party registration by Oct. 11, 2019, for the voter to be allowed to cast a ballot in their new party’s presidential primary.

One final tip: Steuben County residents who believe they are registered to vote but do not receive the blue voters postcard by May 10 should contact the Board of Elections to make sure all their voter paperwork is in order.