LOCKPORT – If new early voting offerings are to increase electoral participation or draw in new voters, it has not happened yet in Niagara County.
The chairmen of the major party committees reported only a trickle of voters have shown up to the polls in the inaugural year of the program, which was put in place by state legislation described by its sponsors as an increase in accessibility, equity and efficiency in New York electoral participation.
Niagara County's Republican Committee Chairman, Richard Andres, and Democratic Committee Chairman, Jason Zona, said their daily reports from the region's board of elections have not shown any ballooning numbers.
The individuals that have cast ballots are longtime, consistent voters the parties' expected to turn out anyway, called "prime voters" in political circles.
"I don’t see it making a big splash this time," said Andres, R-North Tonawanda.
Zona, D-Niagara Falls, suggested the low turnout is due, in part, to Niagara County offering only two locations, one in each of the Cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport. The City of Buffalo in Erie County, which the U.S. Census bureau lists as having about 50,000 more people than all of Niagara County, had seven locations, Zona said.
"Next year we’re going to push to have more sites," Zona said.
Andres is not as sure about expanded the program.
"I think it’s just a waste of effort and money to staff this thing for a limited benefit," he said.
Both men, who serve as in the Niagara County Legislature, have seats in play in this year's election, but Zona declined to seek reelection after being selected as chairman last year, while Andres will compete against a Democratic challenger.
The legislature have favored the Republicans for nearly two decades, but a slate of elections next month could change the make up of the 11 to 4 majority, but at least four seats are near guarantees to remain the same as the candidates fourth, eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth districts compete in unopposed races.
Competitive races include:
• First District — Republican Irene Meyers, of the Hamlet of Ransomville, who replaced the late Clyde Burmaster on the ballot, will face Democrat Wendy Guild Swearingen, of the Village of Youngstown. The first district represents one of two county races in which no incumbents will compete.
• Second District — Democratic challenger Stephanie Kindzia, of the Town of Lewiston, will face incumbent Republican Rebecca Wydysh, of the Town of Lewiston.
• Third District — Republican challenger Robert Bilson, of the City of Niagara Falls, who is waging his second bid for office since 2015, will face incumbent Democrat Mark Grozio, of the City of Niagara Falls.
• Fifth District — In the second of two races in which no incumbents will be featured, Democratic challenger Christopher Robins, of the City of Niagara Falls, will face John Accardo, of the City of Niagara Falls. Both men are former Niagara Falls City Council members.
• Sixth District — Republican challenger David Zajac, of the City of Niagara Falls, who is making his third bid for the seat since 2013, will face the legislature's most veteran lawmaker, incumbent Democratic Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, of the City of Niagara Falls, who is seeking his 15th consecutive term in the legislature.
• Seventh District
Democratic challenger Erik Herbert, of the City of North Tonawanda, will face incumbent Republican Jesse Gooch, of the City of North Tonawanda. Gooch replaced former Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, after she resigned her seat earlier this year.
• Eighth District — Democratic challenger Mark Houghton, of the City of North Tonawanda, will face Andres, the incumbent Republican.
• Ninth District — Democratic challenger Joseph Kissel, of the City of North Tonawanda, will face incumbent Republican Majority Leader Randy Bradt, of the City of North Tonawanda.
• Tenth District — Democratic challenger Trevor Ganshaw, of City of Lockport, will face incumbent Republican David Godfrey, of the Hamlet of Burt.
• Twelfth District — Conservative and Libertarian challenger David Mongielo, of the City of Lockport, will make his second bid for the seat. He faces incumbent Republican William Collins, Sr., of the City of Lockport.
• Thirteenth District — Democratic challenger Anita Mullane, of the City of Lockport, will face multi-term Republican incumbent, and chairman of the legislature, Keith McNall, of the City of Lockport. Mullane is a former Lockport Common Council member. McNall is a former city Board of Education member.