Editorial: GOP, Dems to town voters: Take a hike

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The driving distance between the Garden City Recreational Complex and the Nassau County Board of Elections is 1.8 miles and, according to Google Maps, a five-minute drive without traffic.

The distance between Cow Neck Road in Sands Point and the Nassau County Board of Elections is 11.1 miles – a 27-minute drive.

Guess which was designated by county Republicans and Democrats as one of the 15 locations for early voting in Nassau County?

Logic might dictate Sands Point or a more densely populated area in Port Washington as the answer.

But this is Nassau County and in case you haven’t been paying close attention, logic doesn’t always rule here.

That can explain why 10 of the 15 locations in which early voting will be available for nine days before the primaries and general elections are in the Town of Hempstead and four are in the Town of Oyster Bay.

The 15th location – the Board of Elections – is technically in the Village of Mineola. But its location is south of Old Country Road, the generally accepted line between Hempstead and North Hempstead.

As such it is the furthest point for North Hempstead residents to reach and inconsistent with the purpose of the state’s early voting law – making it easier for New Yorkers to vote.

It is true that Hempstead is by far the largest of the three towns in Nassau County with a population of 760,000 – well more than the 519,000 in Oyster Bay and North Hempstead combined.

Hempstead also covers the biggest territory, covering 120 square miles of land compared to Oyster Bay’s 104 square miles of land and Hempstead’s 53 miles of land.

So Hempstead is certainly entitled to more than half the locations to vote early and Oyster deserves at least one or two more than North Hempstead.

But no locations for North Hempstead voters?

Where is the fairness to voters there who would need to drive as many as 11 miles in Nassau County traffic to vote?

This is no small matter.

Elections are often a question of turnout and even if it is unlikely that President Trump will win New York state in the upcoming presidential election, the number of people who come out to vote for or against him will help determine the outcome of many other races on the ballot since people usually vote for the same party as the person they choose for president.

Bonnie Garone, counsel to the Democratic commissioner on the Board of Elections, said when determining early voting sites the board looked for areas that were underserved and where turnout was not as high as it could be, were accessible by public transportation and had the facilities to host an early voting site.

She said the goal of early voting is to “make voting more accessible” and generally the Town of North Hempstead’s voter turnout is good already.

Let’s set aside the argument that North Hempstead’s relatively good voter turnout should not preclude making voting easier for its residents. Their turnout could still be better, so why punish them for doing a relatively good job?

We suspect the real reason is something more than making voting more accessible.

The 15 early voting locations were selected by Democrat and Republican Party officials with the county Board of Elections accepted by both and, after a bit of squabbling, the two sides each chose seven of the sites.

You think the leaders of the two political parties might be guided by political concerns?

Which comes back to a familiar question. Just why do unelected members of two political parties representing 76 percent of the registered voters in Nassau County get 100 percent of the authority over where people can vote?

Why do no leaders from the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Green Party or any other party get a say? Why not people with no party affiliation? They represent 24 percent of Nassau voters.

Nassau County’s finances under the leadership of Republicans and Democrats have been under state supervision since 2001. So it’s not as if Republican and Democratic leaders have been doing such a great job.

And the party registration of Democrats and Republicans is also no doubt overstated given their control of the election levers – beginning with the duopoly of Republicans and Democrats over election boards across the state.

In Nassau, unelected party leaders of both parties share $15 million to staff a bloated Election Board. That is not good government, but it does buy a lot of party loyalty. For Democrats and Republicans.

It may or may not be a mere coincidence that the decision on the early voting sites came around the same time Nassau County and state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs and Nassau GOP Chairman Joseph Cairo cross-endorsed two candidates for State Supreme Court in November.

One of the candidates who will be elected judge by virtue of this deal is David Gugerty. He was the Nassau Democratic elections commissioner and the Democratic Oyster Bay town leader.

The second candidate assured election was Christopher Ostuni, counsel for majority Republicans on the Nassau County Legislature and the son-in-law of former Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello.

Neither lives in North Hempstead.

Election boards should be in the hands of independent professionals, not party officials and their supporters. The selection of early voting sites is another reason why.

 

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