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Jefferson County committee opposes state’s early voting legislation

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In the latest battle in a war waged on paper, Jefferson County leaders have taken another stand against state officials they believe have missed the point with proposed early voting legislation.

“It’s mainly the cost,” said Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, chairman of the Board of Legislators’ Finance and Rules Committee. “If we had long lines and difficulty with access, that would be one thing, but we’re not experiencing that.”

Bills in the state Senate and Assembly intended to help increase voter turnout would require counties to staff five centralized election sites 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary, adding an estimated $100,000 to $125,000 to the county’s budget.

According to the resolution, with property tax levy increases capped at 2 percent annually and “insufficient relief from state mandates,” local governments are under “unprecedented strain” and unable to meet the financial demands of such a law.

In place of adding hours, legislators are asking the state to re-evaluate how it processes absentee ballots.

“If they want to open up opportunities for people to cast early ballots, the first thing they should look at is the absentee system,” Mr. Gray said.

The Finance and Rules Committee voted unanimously to recommend the resolution Tuesday night. It will go before the full board next week. The Board of Legislators last spoke out against state legislation on March 5, when it unanimously approved a resolution opposing the NY SAFE Act, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s gun control bill.

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