Fulton County opposes early voting

JOHNSTOWN – A Fulton County legislative committee on Thursday opposed passage of proposed state legislation that will allow state residents to vote early.

The Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee agreed with a recommendation of Republican county Election Commissioner Lee Hollenbeck and Democratic county Election Commissioner Lynne Rubscha. The full board considers the resolution May 13.

“My understanding is there is a concern over the new mandates and costs,” county Administrative Officer Jon Stead told the committee.

The committee voted at the County Office Building to oppose passage of state legislation to allow early voting. But county officials want the state to allow counties to opt-in to early voting opportunities and for the state to fully fund any increased costs associated with early voting. The full board must approve the resolution May 13.

Justification or the move, supervisors said, is that the state’s 2 percent tax cap and insufficient relief from state-imposed mandates has placed an unprecedented strain on local government to provide more services with less funding. Officials said the county cannot afford another mandate.

Committee Vice Chairman Greg Fagan said the state Assembly has already passed a proposed bill to allow early voting in New York state.

Stead said legislation being considered in a proposed state Senate bill would allow for early voting two weeks before November’s general election and one week before the September primary.

“My personal opinion is it sets a huge possibility for fraud,” Stead said.

He said Fulton County elections officials do prefer an “opt-in” clause to allow counties to avail themselves of early voting procedures, but he predicted “that’s not going to happen.”

Stead said one of the goals of the proposed state legislation is to allow counties to select the specific location to allow early voting.

He was asked by the committee whether Hollenbeck and Rubscha should be weighing in on early voting.

“I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for the commissioners to take a position,” Stead said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.