This year expanded absentee ballot options and early voting have made for a very busy time at the State’s Election Board offices.
Early Voting will Begin October 24
New Yorkers can now vote early, due to state election reforms signed into law last year. Early voting starts on Oct. 24 through November 1. The change is to help ease crowds and allow safer in-person voting especially during the coronavirus pandemic. If you are planning to vote early, remember the polls are not open the Monday before Election Day.
According to the Chautauqua County Board of Elections website:
All voters in Chautauqua County will be eligible to participate in Early Voting at any one of three poll sites. The sites are at the Hall Clothier Building in Mayville, The Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood (main entrance) and Chautauqua County Fairgrounds 4-H Building in Dunkirk. The hours at the sites vary and can be found at https://chqgov.com/board-of-elections/Early-Voting-Information. If you cast a ballot during the Early Voting Period, you will not be eligible to cast a ballot on Election Day or any subsequent Early Voting Days.
Absentee Ballots and November 3rd
The sixty-two counties in New York State are seeing an avalanche of absentee ballots being requested. Estimates here in Chautauqua County are a record 14,000 ballots being returned within the legal wait period following the November 3rd election day date. Brian Abrams, Chautauqua County Republican Election Board Commissioner, explained, “last year we had the highest amount of absentee ballots in our history, 4,100. This year we have mailed out over 11,700 and are expecting close to 14,000 returned ballots to count. The landscape and nature of voting is undergoing a change.” He added, “with so many absentee ballots expected, it leaves about 20% of the votes up in the air on election day”.
The Results will Take at Least a Week
According to the law, absentee ballots are accepted at the election board office up to seven days after Election Day. “We don’t know where the voters are mailing their ballots from and we have to give them a week to get here. Military absentee ballots are allowed for thirteen days past Election Day,” said Abrams. The absentee ballots outer envelope has a unique barcode for each voter. The envelopes are scanned as they arrive at the Election Board office prior to November 3rd . The scans are sent to New York State’s database to be examined for duplicate votes and other anomalies. This takes up to a week following Election Day. This examination ensures the one man, one vote policy is adhered to.
Once the State system has verified the ballots are true, they are opened by Board of Elections employees and run through high speed scanners. The totals for each voting category are added to the early voting and election day totals. When the thirteen-day waiting period is complete for the military ballots, they are verified and counted to arrive at the final total and the winners are declared. One can see we will be waiting at least a week or more for the results. According to Norm Green, Chautauqua County Democratic Election Board Commissioner, “barring any judicial intervention, final certified totals of county votes will be released sometime before Thanksgiving.”
All of these steps are verified by both political party’s Board of Election Commissioners. Abrams said, “my Democratic counterpart, Norm Green, and I oversee every step together. This assures our voters that their vote is equitable and fair. We keep an eye on each other. This is the process in every county in New York State.” When asked about staffing up for this large increase in ballots, Abrams said, “we hired six full-time employees to manage the expected mountain of absentee ballots. They are working non-stop to keep up with the requests and received ballots.”
Early – Absentee – In-Person
No matter how you choose to vote, know your vote is very important. Voting is key to a healthy democracy. Many have fought and died for your right to vote. Please do not take your right to vote for granted. Examine the candidates and issues and know your vote will be treated with respect and fairness.