ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) — This year’s political primaries are almost two weeks away, but early voting is set to get underway Saturday at noon. Erie County officials have set up an extensive network of early voting sites and it’s considered the most inclusive in New York State.
As long as you are qualified to vote in the June 22 primaries, you can vote from home. Or you can vote early at any of the 37 early polling sites the Erie County Board of Elections has set up, most of which are in Buffalo. That is more early sites than counties that are much larger.
If you’re are still having flashbacks of last year’s record voter turnout, braving awful weather conditions, and the COVID-19 pandemic, that was a presidential election year.
This year, Erie County elections officials expect the primary to be much less cumbersome.
“We had one of the busiest years of voting last year in 2020 and there was not many problems at all at the polling places. We were in a much different situation,” said Erie County Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner.
For one, elections inspectors will be equipped with electronic poll books at all 37 early voting sites, which can make voting flow quicker for those who use the “FastPass” cards they received in the mail.
“There is a barcode on there. You can literally show that to the inspector, they will scan it in and it will pull up your information even quicker. Folks can also their driver’s license, if they would like, to come in and scan that in and it will pull up their information quicker,” added Zellner.
Qualified voters can stop at any of the 37 early sites they choose, a Buffalo voter can even go to a suburban site to vote in the Buffalo mayor’s primary. State lawmakers passed legislation this week allowing local election officials to process the returns more quickly.
In the past, absentee ballots were counted altogether seven to eight days after the election — now Zellner says the absentee ballots and military ballots can be opened and processed as they come in.
“Now we can begin to at least open them even before and start processing them even before the election — we won’t count them before the election–but we will get them in and start processing them, and have them ready to go,” Zellner said.
The electronic poll books will be in use at all 37 early voting sites in Erie County, but only selected sites for November’s general election, due to a shortage of trained poll workers.
Early voting goes from noon to 6:00 on weekends and noon to 9:00 on weekdays.
If you are not fully vaccinated, elections officials ask that you wear a mask.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.