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FROM THE DESK OF TOM SCHILIRO – NOW IS THE TIME FOR EARLY VOTING

?????????by Tom Schiliro

Voter participation has been falling for the last two decades, not only on the national level but here locally in our own Suffolk County. Consider the last local elections held in November. There was a 19.5% turnout of registered voters and that was during a year we were electing a County Executive, a very important position. Even in 2014 during a gubernatorial year the turnout was 34% of registered voters.
Why are we not voting? We can explore numerous reasons but that may take up too much time. The first and what I consider a key problem is convenience. Before we discuss what could be the beginning of a solution we need to say those low percentages are of registered voters NOT eligible voters. Approximately 48% of eligible voters (over 18 and a US citizen) are just not registered to vote. To make the problem worse is that it is more acute here in New York and Suffolk County than it is in the rest of the United States.
The answer lies in that 37 states allow for some form of early voting AND immediate voter registration. Have you noticed the record number of citizens voting in the Presidential primaries all over the country, in some cases waiting on lines for hours to cast a vote, a key responsibility of American citizenship. In these states, a voter can vote up to three weeks before an election, whether it be a primary, special or general election. All the time the locations and time of voting are directed to the convenience of the voter. Most of those states allow for onsite registration-register and then vote.
Here in New York and Suffolk County one must register weeks before the election and then make sure you vote within a 15 hour window period on a Tuesday. I can recall a story that was told to me by a very prominent surgeon at Stony Brook Unversity Hospital. He stated that he wanted to vote in the last local election (remember 19.5% turnout) but he was due in surgery at 6:00 a.m. and then had rounds and office appointments until 9:00 p.m. It virtually was impossible for this leading citizen to vote on that day. He was out of luck.
The same holds true for our neighbors that ride the train into NYC on a typical workday, two hour commute in and out of the city, eight hour workday and then get home around 7:30. After dinner, these folks are just too exhausted to go out and vote.
Currently there are companion bills in the New York State Assembly and Senate to make New York State the 38th early voting State. It will allow voting for up to three weeks before an election, locations will be scattered around the county as well as the Board of Elections in Yaphank. The voter will then be able to go to a convenient location at a convenient time (weekends) at their own leisure. Voter participation will vastly increase and the net result will be responsive elected officials, less backroom dealing and a more informed electorate, those being some of the reasons why people don’t vote.
Let New York truly be the Empire State and adopt this and consider same day registration. We will all benefit.
Tom Schiliro lives in Manorville and is the host of the LINEWS radio program “Eye On Crime” and can be heard on 103.9 FM @ 4 pm on Sundays. Any questions or comments can be addressed by email to saddlerockofny@aol.com, care of Tom Schiliro.

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