The voting process has changed enormously in recent years and particularly in these COVID times, with the tens of millions of absentee ballots cast nationally in last year’s presidential election. Albany controls what’s in the state Election Law and could change it again this year, with more time in the legislative session.
Republican Chautauqua County Elections Commissioner Brian Abram said elections boards are watching carefully, knowing changes could happen.
"Opportunities for early voting, with enhancing more of these locations or requiring more of these locations, those are still out there. Those are still pending, again, until sessions are over," Abram said. "All the voting situations are still subject to somebody bringing something forward and they being passed. So at this point, we know what the rules are, but that’s not to say we’ll know what the rules are at least for a little bit longer."
The traditional image of an election is also changing. The old lever voting machines came out of AVM in Jamestown. Today, however, more ballots are scanned by computers, which save votes digitally for auditing.
Abram said election boards are constantly updating their technology.
"We’re updating 10 new machines or more per year and phasing out the old machines," he said. "Last year, we also purchased some new printing copiers for our ballot production because that’s two of the major issues that we have here, obviously, to make sure that the technology is up to date and that the printers can create the ballots."
Just as the computer is a sign of of the times, so is smaller total of signatures needed to get on the ballot this COVID year. Abram said Albany needs to stop making changes so the local boards can take a breath.
"I would hope that they would eventually stop changing the goal posts, if you will, and allow the local boards to kind of get comfortable with the way we currently are doing business," he said. "But at this point, it just seems there are a lot of people who are interested in continually changing the process or feeling that they are putting a more emphasis toward making it easier."