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New York's voter access proposals fared poorly in Southern Tier districts


Ballot prop spot_web

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — Southern Tier Republicans outperformed expectations in this week's elections. In addition to electing local candidates, the state GOP also managed to block several ballot proposals related to voter access.

Though turnout was lower statewide, some of the strongest voter opposition to those proposals came from the Southern Tier. Voters in Broome County voted against the proposals with a nearly two to one margin.

Ballot proposal three would have allowed voters to register for the polls as late as Election Day. Proposal four would have made it possible for voters to request an absentee ballot without disclosing a reason why they can’t come to the polls in person.

Neither of those amendments passed. Another Democrat-backed amendment involving the statewide redistricting process also failed

Binghamton University Political science professor Jon Krasno said New York has become unique among other Democratic-majority states in keeping those additional voting restrictions.

"New York State has been a state which has been traditionally very hard to vote in," Krasno said, citing the state's party and voter registration deadlines as an example.

There has been a history of support for the reforms among New York's Democratic majority. But Krasno says despite the support from the majority, voter turnout had a big role to play.

"I would suspect that this is an example of the people who scheduled those initiatives choosing the wrong election to put those initiatives on the ballot," Krasno said. "So this was an election where you didn't have the strongest Democratic turnout."

We should also note that Binghamton University is a WSKG underwriter.

Another factor in the election was a large-scale Republican ad campaign against the ballot measures, which claimed the two voter-access amendments would invite voter fraud.

Bijoy Datta is the Republican Party chair for Broome County. Datta said he’s never seen any instances of voter fraud in his 23 years in county politics. Nevertheless, he said the amendments could invite fraud, and would lead to added challenges for local election officials.

"How do you ensure that people aren't voting in multiple places, multiple counties?" Datta said. "And again, I'm certainly no conspiracy theorist, but it takes a lot of operations to execute an election each year."

Allison Twang works with Binghamton University’s non-partisan Center for Civic Engagement, which runs an on-campus polling place. She said that for the polling site at Binghamton University, same-day registration voting wouldn't be that different from the status quo.

"It would work really similarly to when you vote affidavit," Twang said. "So basically, you know, people would register, and before their vote would be counted, they would go through the normal steps that they would take to verify the registration of any voter."

Twang said for many younger and inexperienced voters, more flexibility with registration deadlines would go a long way in getting more of them to the polls.

Phariha Rahman is a graduate student and voter coordinator at the Center for Civic Engagement.

"We do have a lot of students who sometimes will come in on Election Day and say, like, they had problems with registration, and they weren't able to vote," Rahman said.

This election, Rahman said about 20% of the student voters at the Binghamton University polling site hadn't registered in time and had to vote via affidavit.

* This story has been updated to better reflect the words of Broome County Republican Party Chair Bijoy Datta.