GNH Lumber February 2024

EDITORIAL: No more voting excuses

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DID YOU KNOW that this year November 5 is actually October 26? Or is it the other way around? It doesn’t matter. You will soon have to set your internal clocks to Eastern Early Voting Time because in this state, at long last, Election Day means Election Days.

This is not some secret double-talk cooked up by the latest crop of Russian internet trolls. And it’s definitely not meant to suppress voter turnout. Just the opposite.

The official Election Day for this year’s general election remains November 5. But this year, regular voters (as opposed to those who use absentee ballots) can cast their ballot on any one of nine early voting days, beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, October 26 and running through Sunday, November 3 at 2 p.m.

Those dates are when three polling places around the county will open: the Columbia County Office Building at 401 State Street in Hudson; the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building, 3211 Church Street in Valatie; and Copake Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road.

Or, voters can stick with tradition and line up at their regular local polling place on November 5.

What if you like the idea of early voting but don’t live in one of those three communities with early polling places? No problem. You can choose any one of them during the early voting period. All that’s required is that you be registered to vote in Columbia County.

One other tip: If you’re likely to forget whether or not you voted, write it down if you vote early. It’s highly unlikely that you’d be allowed to vote a second time, but if you did, the trouble it would cause you… you wouldn’t want to know.

Early voting has been a long time coming in this state. In the recent past our single Election Day was seen as a civic exercise. Schools were closed. Citizens lined up on that one day to choose who would govern their communities. But the one-day window also prevented people from exercising their right to vote. Now we’ll see whether making it easier to vote draws more voters to the polls.

This improved access couldn’t have come at a more significant time. This county is undergoing big changes. We’re now down to 59,916 residents, according to the latest census estimate. Compare that to the county’s 64,000 population in the 2010 census. And one particular set of data suggests a shift in who’s moved in and who’s gone somewhere else. Voter registration figures for what the state Board of Elections calls active voters show that Democrats now far outnumber Republicans in the county: 16,590 Dems versus 12,192 Republicans.

The numbers are closer when you add minor party voters to the GOP line. And then there is the third largest bloc of voters, 11,371 of them, who do not select a party affiliation. These independent voters can determine the outcome of elections. But that could be an assumption current trends will change.

A decade ago the two major parties were in a dead heat and the total number of active voters was smaller than it is now. Today there are more Democrats in the county than there have been in the recent past even though the total population is smaller.

Neither the registration data nor the arrival of early voting necessarily affects the outcome of local political races. All we know is that local offices are the only contests on the ballot this year except for a handful of propositions. One-in-three of the 19 municipalities would have no contests at all except that the term “local” includes seats on the state Supreme Court and the district attorney. These alone are a powerful reason for voting.

There’s no way to know how these trends will affect the county and the towns until after the votes are cast. But what we do know is that representative democracy in this state has a new tool to combat the voting excuse factor. Early voting, in fact, means there are fewer excuses for not voting than before. Too tired/busy/distracted? Pick a more convenient time. Can’t get to the polls? Call a political party. They’d love to give you a ride. Forgot? All 10 days?

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