From the Morning Memo:

The Erie County Board of Elections is scrambling to prepare for New York State’s new early voting period.

The state Legislature passed a series of election reforms in January, including early voting. Lawmakers pushed to have the laws effective this year, in order to establish the systems before the presidential election this year.

However, the rush has been taxing on county boards of elections who received only a few months to get plans in order. Early voting was not required for the primary elections, which were moved up to June, but is required before the general election on November 5.

In Erie County, it will take place from October 26 until November 3 this year.

“What we have to do is implement a procedure and that really involves a change in a lot of our procedures and our software,” Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said.

Mohr said there are a number of obstacles that the new law presents. It is establishing 37 voting sites that will need things like new electronic poll books, printers and staff.

The inspectors also need to be trained on the new technology and the county needs to establish protocol to make sure people can’t cast multiple votes, and the early votes are held until election day to be counted with the rest.

“We estimate the total cost to be somewhere in the neighborhood of about $3 million,” Mohr said.

Since the law was passed in January, after Erie County had already passed its budget, there is no money specifically allocated for early voting. The state is picking up some of the tab with a roughly $1.1 million dollar grant for Erie County, reimbursable after the county fronts the cost.

Because there is no budget line, the county budget office needs to at least approve that funding and the county Legislature, which is currently on break, may need to take a vote sometime in early September as well.

The Board of Elections says state lawmakers also approved another grant worth $874,000 but the state budget director hasn’t signed off on it yet.

“We’re working very rapidly to try to make sure that we don’t lose any funding and continue along the procedures and the plans that we have in place,” he said.

The quick turnaround has put most counties in the same position of trying to find money for which it hasn’t budgeted. In Erie County, commissioners said they’ve worked extra hard to make sure early voting is available to everybody.

“If you look at counties in Upstate like Monroe and Onondaga, they only have one site in the city of Syracuse and one site in the city of Rochester,” Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said. “We have ten sites in the city of Buffalo.”

Zellner said there will be sites in close proximity to every voter but also noted people will be allowed to vote at any site in the county.