The Westchester County Board of Elections’ mission statement ensures “that all eligible residents have the opportunity to register and vote in our county.” Perhaps so, but not when it comes to providing the option of early voting in the City of Rye. Our situation is more akin to voter suppression.
As any voter who looked into the matter before Election Day discovered there was no early voting location in Rye. This stands in marked contrast to other municipalities in the County. Every other jurisdiction with a city form of government — White Plains, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mt. Vernon, and Peekskill — had an early voting site provided through the Board of Elections, which is the only body responsible for election facilities in the County.
What’s more, plenty of towns and villages with populations smaller than Rye (16,000), have had sites for early voting. These include Croton-on-Hudson (population 8,200); Mt. Kisco (10,700); Rye Brook (9,700), and Pound Ridge (5,100). Tiny Yorktown Heights (1,567) has two!
In contrast, City of Rye voters who prefer to cast their ballots early must travel to the Rye Brook Firehouse on King Street, or the Mamaroneck Town Center. Rye residents who are no longer able to drive, and accustomed to walking to a polling station, are out of luck. So, too, for that matter, are Port Chester residents.
How does the Board of Elections decide where early voting sites should be located? Does the paucity of sites reflect a budget problem or a lack of poll workers? Is there anything Rye residents can do to obtain an early voting site in the city?
I put these questions to the Board of Elections over three days and did not receive a response.
There are those who are not advocates of early voting, which detracts from the community nature of Election Day, where we cross paths with our neighbors, discuss the election — as well as other community concerns (and probably, the weather). What’s more, those who vote early may miss important, last-minute campaign developments.
But early voting is the law in New York State, and one can only wonder why it is not being made equitably available.
One thing is for sure — our lack of an early voting site is not the result of a nefarious political decision. County Executive George Latimer — to whom the Board of Elections reports — is himself a resident of Rye. He must suffer along with his constituents.