Absentee ballots await counting

Voters cast their ballots during early voting in 2020 at the Jefferson County offices on Arsenal Street in Watertown. Watertown Daily Times

The results of last week’s local elections will take a little longer to certify than expected this year, with local election boards instructed to wait until at least Saturday, Nov. 13 by the state Board of Elections.

In Jefferson County, election officials said they don’t expect to start counting affidavit or absentee ballots until Monday, Nov. 15. There were 936 absentee ballots returned there as of Monday morning, but as long as a ballot was mailed by Election Day last week, it will be valid if received by the Board of Elections by today.

Of the 936 absentee ballots returned, 219 include the city of Watertown’s Council election, 11 include the Black River mayor’s race, and 35 include the Lyme marjiuana dispensary ban proposition, which passed by only 5 in-person votes.

In St. Lawrence County, election officials are waiting until Monday as well for both absentee and affidavit ballots, although they said affidavit ballots are currently being reviewed, but not opened. There are 1,389 absentee ballots to be counted in St. Lawrence County by Monday afternoon.

In Lewis County, officials said they have been in touch with state officials, and gotten the go-ahead to count their 245 absentee ballots starting today. Lewis County will count its absentee ballots on Nov. 15.

Across the state, most officials and candidates expected absentee ballot counting would commence today, one week after the general election on Nov. 2.

But according to the New York state Board of Elections, that timeline was only possible due to a now-expired executive order that required local boards to submit their voter rolls, absentee and affidavit information to the state Board of Elections within two days.

“That executive order has since expired, which reverts the timetable back to the regulations, which specify ten days,” said Kristen Z. Stavisky and Todd D. Valentine, co-executive directors of the state BOE, in an email sent to election commissioners on Nov. 3.

According to guidance released by the state Board of Elections, each local board has until Friday to send its list of affidavit voters, voter history and absentee ballot requests to the state election board.

Until local boards receive the state’s final list of potential matched ballots, which indicates a voter may have cast two or more ballots, they are not allowed to open affidavit ballots, which are provided to local residents who aren’t listed at the polling site but believe they are eligible to vote.

The state election board said local boards can count absentee ballots, as long as they were received on or before Oct. 3, as that is an early enough date the voter’s affidavit ballot, if cast, would be deemed invalid.

Once the absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted, each local election board can lock in the vote totals for each race on their ballots and certify their election results.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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(1) comment


If your information is wrong, like wrong age or address, the procedure is that you will be asked to use an affidavit ballot. This applies even if otherwise irrelevant, like no change of district or even if not your own fault. This is so that you are signing off on the change. Poll workers cannot enter this changed after you have voted on the machine. It doesn't even work then. You have to do it by affidavit ballot. So make sure your information is correct with the BOE beforehand unless you want to vote affidavit. And make sure your information is correct, or you may not receive important communications from the BOE.

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