Ulster County’s Democratic and Republican election commissioners have reached a compromise on where to locate eight early voting centers that will allow county residents to cast ballots up to nine days ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.
The deal, struck last week, ends a standoff between Democratic Commissioner Ashley Dittus and GOP counterpart Tom Turco that — if left unresolved — could have cost the county tens of thousands of dollars in state funding for the sites.
The legislation, approved earlier this year in Albany, allocates $60,000 for every county to open two sites and provides $30,000 in funding for each additional site. Earlier this month, Dittus went public with her dispute with Turco over where to locate the early voting centers. Dittus said she was following guidance from state officials that call for the centers to be located near densely populated areas accessible by public transportation. Her plan called for locations in Kingston, as well as the villages of Ellenville, New Paltz and Saugerties. Turco, meanwhile, favored locations that would be easier to get to for county residents in outlying areas. Dittus said a major sticking point was her proposal to locate one of the centers on the campus of SUNY New Paltz.
The impasse led to allegations of “voter suppression” by Democrats and a party-line committee vote by county lawmakers endorsing Dittus’ proposal. The commissioners faced a May 29 deadline to submit a proposal to the state Board of Elections or risk losing out on funding over and above the $60,000 for two sites.
But, on Friday, May 24, Dittus said, she and Turco agreed to a final list of eight sites:
- The Woodstock Community Center at 56 Rock City Road
- Plattekill Town Hall, 1915 Route 44-55 in Modena
- The Russell F. Brott Senior Center at 1 Town Hall Drive in Lake Katrine
- Redeemer Lutheran Church at 90 Route 32 in New Paltz
- St. Mary and St. Andrews Catholic Parish at 137 South Main Street in Ellenville
- The Highland American Legion at 84 Grand St., Highland
- The Accord Fire Hall at 22 Main St., Accord
- SUNY Ulster at Kingston, 94 Mary’s Ave., Kingston
Voters will be able to cast ballots at any of the centers regardless of where they are registered in the county. To accommodate the new system, state funding will pay for the purchase of “ballot on demand” printers that can produce ballots custom-tailored for voters election districts. The money will also fund electronic poll books that will automatically update every few minutes to prevent fraud by people voting at multiple sites.