If Republican Election Commissioner Thomas F. Turco has his way there will be no early voting in New Paltz.

Turco nixed a proposal to use the SUNY New Paltz Student Union building as a permanent early voting site for the upcoming November election and into 2020. When Democratic Election Commissioner Ashley Dittus proposed the college, Commissioner Turco replied: “Absolutely not. People in the community don’t want to vote there.”

In order to obtain funds from New York State grants established to pay for early voting digital equipment, the two Ulster election commissioners must identify and agree on the number and location of all Ulster County’s early voting sites prior to a May 29 filing deadline, which is fast approaching. Early voting will take place countywide over nine days, from October 26 to November 3. Hours are yet to be determined.

The filing entitles Ulster County to about $30,000 per early voting site. New York State has mandated two sites per county but the exact number is flexible. Failure to file by the deadline could result in loss of state funds, forcing the county to pay or in turn, sue the Republicans to recoup the costs if Turco continues to resist a compromise.

A key aspect of early voting is that voters can use any poll site during the 9-day period. Early voters are not restricted to their home election districts. Additionally, the State has mandated Wi-Fi, locked storage for equipment, handicap accessibility, public transportation access, population density and proximity to other sites as requirements for each location. SUNY New Paltz has agreed to meet all these demands, at no cost to the county.

Commissioner Dittus feels that eight early voting sites, accessible from major transportation arteries, will best serve Ulster, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. Her list includes two in the city of Kingston, SUNY New Paltz, The Russell Brott Senior Center in the town of Ulster, the Community Center in Woodstock, and a site for Southern Ulster in Rochester, and another in Highland along Route 9W.

Turco says his list of seven sites includes smaller towns like Esopus, Rosendale and Lloyd — but not New Paltz, just off NY State Thruway Exit 18. “SUNY New Paltz is not a good early voting location,” Turco told me when I reached him by phone. “It must serve 115,000 regular voters in Ulster County, not a small group.” Instead, Turco favors the Rosendale Recreation Center and Gardiner Town Hall.

Two weeks ahead of the filing deadline there has been little discussion and no agreement, according to Commissioner Dittus. After weeks of delay and a five-minute meeting, Turco told her he will only discuss poll sites if SUNY is off the table.

When I asked Commissioner Turco how he will reach an agreement and meet the deadline, he told me “I don’t know, we’ll keep working at it.” Should the deadline be missed he said “I don’t know the alternative. Early voting is brand new.”

Failure to secure State mandated funds is also a concern for the Ulster County Legislature’s Laws and Rules Committee, which is said to be looking into the issue.

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