Dutchess County has five early voting sites spread throughout the county. Across the river, Rockland County has four. And Westchester has committed to opening at least 16 sites for November’s election. Here in Putnam, however, officials plan to open just one early voting site. It’s in Carmel, considerably closer to Connecticut than Cold Spring.
Boards of elections are supposed to ensure the voting process remains fair and open to all eligible voters. The boards in surrounding counties seem to understand that. The same cannot be said for the powers that be here in Putnam, where our population, at 98,320, puts us only a hair below the 100,000-threshold requiring multiple early voting sites.
Voters — Democrats, Republicans, independents and others — on the western side of Putnam County deserve an early voting site. We should not have to go to Carmel, which for many of us is a drive of more than 30 minutes each way, to exercise our right to vote. It is unfair to favor some voters and penalize others based on where they live. And during this pandemic, it is unwise to funnel early voters from around the county into one place — a place, it must be pointed out, that has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Putnam.
Those against opening a second early voting site will likely cite the cost, arguing it’s too expensive. Please. The notion that Putnam, alone among our neighboring counties, is too poor to staff a second polling place is absurd.
A county whose ruling government thinks nothing of spending taxpayer money on a pair of horses that will cost us $15,000 a year to maintain at Tilly Foster Farm can certainly find a way to provide a second early voting site for a major national and local election during a pandemic.
Contact the Putnam Board of Elections, your county legislator and County Executive MaryEllen Odell. Tell them to pony up and prioritize voters over horses. Western Putnam deserves equal access to early voting.
Ned Rauch, Garrison
Rauch is vice chair of the Putnam Democratic Committee.