Local elections officials weigh in on proposed election reforms

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 5:24 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - One of the first things handled in the state Senate in the new legislative session is an election reform package.

Portable polling locations, expanded ballot drop-off locations, a voting and election database, and allowing food and non-alcoholic drinks to be handed out to voters waiting in line highlight some of the proposed changes in an election reform package in front of the state Legislature.

St. Lawrence County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Jennie Bacon feels having portable polling locations and more places to drop off a ballot could be good for voters in rural areas of the county.

“We are the largest county in the state. If we were able to have a portable early voting site, that could really be great for people who live in the far-lying areas that have a difficult time during early voting getting to Potsdam or Ogdensburg,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Republican Commissioner in St. Lawrence County, Thomas Nichols, does not see why the changes are needed.

“The packages of bills that the state Legislature has been passing in the last three years changed dramatically when the Democratic party became one party rules all in New York state,” he said.

In Jefferson County, a similar feeling is shared by Republican Elections Commissioner Jude Seymour.

“A lot of these bills are little tiny reforms, that I think that they just wanted to put together a reform package and say we did something. A lot of them don’t amount to a hill of anything, and frankly won’t really change what we’re doing except limiting our options,” he said.

However, Michelle LaFave, the Jefferson County Democratic Commissioner hopes the changes rebuild voter confidence.

“I’m really hoping that a lot of these things will help restore faith that has been lost over the last few years in the election systems, and the elections themselves,” she said.

State Senator Mark Walczyk (R. - 49th District) criticized his co-workers, saying voting reforms shouldn’t be the first thing being dealt with at a time when New Yorkers are concerned about inflation and public safety.