Oneida County voters will have three available sites for early voting for the first time this fall, and more than a week to do it.
County elections commissioners Rose Grimaldi and Carolann Cardone have settled on three locations and schedules, and have announced details of how they’ll carry out New York’s first ever early voting without absentee ballots.
The locations are:
• Rome YMCA, 301 West Bloomfield St.
• New Hartford Town Hall, in the former Gander Mountain store, at The Orchards, 8635 Clinton St., New Hartford.
• The Board of Elections on the third floor of the Boehlert Center at Union Station, 321 Main St. in Utica.
Unlike traditional voting on Election Day, any voter can vote at any of the three sites. Sign-in will be electronic rather than on paper, as each site must be able to accommodate voters who live anywhere in the county.
After checking in, voters will be given a ballot printed on the spot for races where they live, including the district for choosing a county legislator and any town races being contested. There are no statewide or national offices being chosen this year, but all Oneida County voters will be asked to vote for a county executive.
The ballot will work the same as traditional Election Day ballots: Voters fill in bubbles to make their choices, then insert the paper ballot into a scanner.
“A ticket comes out like a receipt,” Cardone said. “The voter goes over to the inspector, gives the ticket to the inspector, the inspector grabs the ballot off the printer, looks at the ballot to confirm it’s the right ballot number … and then the voter goes and takes it to the privacy booth and does their thing and puts it in the machine.”
All sites will be electronically connected to guard against repeat voting. Computer chips containing each day’s scans of paper ballots will be removed nightly and new chips put in. Early-voting ballots can be counted starting at 8 p.m. Election Day.
Early voting runs over two weeks and the week leading up to Election Day. Hours at the three sites:
• 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Oct. 26, Sunday Oct. 27, Saturday Nov. 2 and Sunday Nov. 3.
• 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays at all locations.
• 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the New Hartford site only on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and Thursday Oct. 31.
The schedule was largely dictated by the state law adopted in January that set up early voting. Republican Grimaldi and Democrat Cardone floated sites earlier in the year and received feedback on them, and settled on the three locations. Factors included the hosts being amenable to the hours and for set-up and testing, including on the weekends, and accessibility to people with mobility disabilities.
Under the new state law, a county of Oneida County’s population was required to have at least two sites, but the commissioners opted for a third. Cardone expects the New Hartford location to be especially popular.
Cardone and Grimaldi said they believe they’ve hired enough poll workers and supervisors for the sites, noting that normally poll workers are needed only on Election Day and to prepare.
The county has received a share state funding set aside to help counties with the extra cost and got a separate grant toward the cost of the electronic poll books. Total costs have not been tallied.
Traditional absentee ballots for voters who expect to be away are still available from the board’s office in Utica. As for how many people will take advantage of early voting, there’s no telling.
“I know of 10 that will,” Cardone said. “That’s my family.”
“Putting all this work into it and coming up with our plan, I would like to see it. I would like to see a decent turnout,” Grimaldi said. “There’s no excuse now for people to say ‘I didn’t vote.’ Now you have the opportunity.”