For the first time, Suffolk County Board of Elections officials are gearing up to open the polls well ahead of Election Day.
Earlier this year, the New York State Legislature approved a law providing voters with nine days of early voting, which will begin Saturday, Oct. 26, and run through Sunday, Nov. 3.
Suffolk County has set 10 polling places — one in each town — for early voting. Late last month, election officials amended the rules to allow residents to vote early at any of the polling places, instead of the one in the town where they reside.
“We have ‘vote anywhere’ in Suffolk County,” Democratic Board of Elections commissioner Anita Katz said Monday. “A voter can, as an example, live in Babylon, work in Brookhaven and vote in Brookhaven for their Babylon candidates.”
Officials had been considering a requirement that early voters cast their ballot in the town they reside in, but faced pushback from activists, particularly in western Suffolk’s larger towns.
GOP elections commissioner Nicholas LaLota said Monday that ensuring security was a factor in their decision.
“We want to be as accommodating as possible but we have to strike a balance and protect the integrity of the election,” he said.
Early voting will be done, for the most part, the same way regular votes are cast on Election Day. The major change will be the use of electronic poll books on iPads used by election workers.
“Nearly instantaneously, the equipment at the other nine polling places is made aware that that voter checked in at one polling place,” Mr. LaLota said. “This communication ability prevents people from voting in two different locations.”
According to Mr. LaLota, Southampton’s polling place was relocated to the Stony Brook/Southampton campus gymnasium off Tuckahoe Road to ensure reliable connectivity.
The technology has been tested and over 6,000 poll inspectors have been trained on the new system, Ms. Katz said.
On Election Day, residents who have not opted to vote early can do so at their usual polling place. Both election commissioners stressed that a voter cannot cast more than one vote.
New York is the 39th state to give voters the option of early voting. Advocates of early voting have said the measure will increase overall voter participation and ease lines at polling places on Election Day.
Mr. LaLota has been critical of how the new process was rolled out statewide.
“It was a large challenge to identify 10 adequate early voting sites, which have to have enough parking, handicapped access and large enough rooms to house our large machines and it was even more difficult to have to do so in just a few weeks time,” he said.
“I’m eager to see how many vote early and see how successful the program is,” he added.
State law requires a minimum of seven locations for early voting.
“It’s a big county, so we went for 10 this year,” Ms. Katz said.
She and Mr. LaLota agreed that the county may expand early voting sites in 2020, since presidential elections usually bring higher turnout.
According to Board of Elections data compiled in February, there are 977,134 active registered voters in Suffolk County.
Ms. Katz said the rules were amended to expand access to voters.
“Whatever makes [voting] the most convenient, that’s our goal,” she said.
Local polling places for early voting include the Riverhead Senior Center on Shade Tree Lane in Aquebogue, the Southold Senior Center on Pacific Street in Mattituck and the Youth Recreational Center on Bateman Road on Shelter Island.
For a complete list of polling places and more information, visit suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/BOE/Early-Voting-Information.
The dates and times for early voting are:
• Saturday, 10/26: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Sunday, 10/27: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Monday, 10/28: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Tuesday, 10/29: noon-8 p.m.
• Wednesday, 10/30: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Thursday, 10/31: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Friday, 11/1: noon-8 p.m.
• Saturday, 11/2: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Sunday, 11/3: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.