Barbara Thomas of the Saratoga County League of Women Voters (at podium) addressing the Board of Supervisors. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA – On Tuesday, within earshot of commands to “do your job” from the public seating area, Saratoga County Commissioner of Elections Roger Schiera said he supported the supervisors in standing firmly against a state proposal to mandate early voting countywide, as well as automatic voter registration in Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices.
For the third item of its 2018 Legislative Program, the Board of Supervisors indicated support for “increased voter participation” but also opposition to a pending state law for early voting and automatic DMV registration.
“Early voting has been studied and it has not increased voter turnout in the states that permit it,” the supervisors wrote in the program summary. “In addition to the difficulty in administering an early voter program, the additional costs associated with staffing polling locations and renting polling space for weekend voting is problematic.”
The summary continues, “Automatic voter registration through DMV will lead to confusion because voters will not know whether or where they are registered to vote,” and predicts that individuals with “no intention of voting” will sign the forms.
It adds: “The material influx of voters will also require creation of new election districts that will drive the incremental election costs of inspectors, voting machines and ballot printing.”
Barbara Thomas, representing the Saratoga County League of Women Voters, urged the supervisors to “strike” the related measure “from your legislative agenda.”
Thomas and Saratoga Unites Executive Vice President Nicole Clarke were among about a half-dozen area residents who opposed the supervisors on the matter.
Board Chairman Edward Kinowski then invited Schiera to the podium for a response to the residents’ concerns.
Schiera said that Saratoga County supervisors are “entitled to express an opinion” to the state. Based on preliminary estimates, he explained, implementing the state law would cost the county between $800,000 and $1 million each year.
“It’s a very expensive gamble,” Schiera said, based on “inconclusive evidence” that early voting and automatic DMV registrations have proven to be effective.
Saratoga Springs Supervisors Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch were the only two board members in favor of an amendment to remove the item from the legislative program. The board eventually passed all 15 items in the program.
Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett expressed disbelief that so many residents showed up to oppose the county’s resolution. Barrett said no supervisor ever indicated to him that she or he favored “restricting voter access.”
“This is a bad proposal,” insisted Hadley Supervisor Arthur Wright, noting how state officials have proposed $7 million of funding in 2019 to assist counties, but how they may also deny any funds in future budgets.
If that happens, Wright said, it turns into another “unfunded state mandate.”
“We’re doing our diligence for the taxpayers of Saratoga County,” he concluded.