MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Board of Elections says it received 3,264 absentee ballot as of late last week with nearly two and a half months until the General Election. , With a total of nearly 5,000 absentee ballots cast four years ago, the number of absentees in 2020 will likely be significantly higher by the time election day arrives on Nov. 3.
“We expect the turnout this year to be about 70% of the total voters, which is normal for the presidential cycle,” said Republican Election Commissioner Brian C. Abram. “Absentee voters this year will no doubt make up about 10-12% of the total vote, or higher.”
Chautauqua County currently has 77,127 active voter registrants.
“Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic,” added Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green, “voters are encouraged vote by mail this year or vote early at our early voting sites ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3.”
Frequently asked questions to the Board of Elections are the following:
Will there be vote by mail or absentee voting ahead of Election Day?
Yes. After applying for a ballot through the mail or by in person delivery to the Board of Elections, 7 N. Erie St. Mayville, NY 14757, the Board of Elections will mail ballots starting Friday September 18th and ballots will be mailed out daily as any timely postmarked or delivered application is received until the day before Election Day. The Board of Elections recommends absentee ballot applications be sent in as-soon-as possible, but postmarked or delivered to the Board of Elections no later than seven days before any election, which this year is October 27th. The last possible day to return a ballot by mail, while not recommended, is postmarked the day before the election postmark and the ballot must be received at the elections office no later than Nov. 10th, seven days following the election.
What is the difference between vote by mail or absentee? The New York State Constitution provides for voters to vote by absentee ballot if they are “…unable to appear personally at the polling place because of illness or physical disability…” The state Legislature has passed a bill allowing for consideration of the coronavirus as an acceptable reason for marking off temporary illness in order to receive an absentee ballot and to vote by mail. In other states, vote by mail is generally a right of all voters to cast ballots without reason by mail.
Who is eligible to vote by absentee/vote by mail?
Voters who are concerned about in person voting due to COVID19 should mark off temporary illness on their absentee ballot application. Voters who have any permanent or temporary illness, are a care giver for a person with an illness and anyone who will be out of the county on Election Day are eligible to vote by mail.
How will a voter know that their application has been received and finally that the voted ballot was received and is countable?
The Board of Elections will have an absentee ballot status lookup application on line at www.votechautauqua.com starting Monday September 21st to inform voters the status of their absentee application and ballot. Further, voters will be informed by mail of any discrepancies relating to the casting of their absentee ballot. If a voter casts a ballot during the Early Voting Period, they will be ineligible to cast a ballot on Election Day or any subsequent Early Voting Days.
Will there be Drop Boxes for Absentee Voting?
There is no current plan to have absentee ballot drop boxes for Chautauqua County. Why? First and foremost, Commissioners Green and Abram state that they do trust the U.S. Mail Service in-spite of the hyperbole on the news programs as of late relating to the ability of the post office to return absentee ballots. Second, the purchase of drop boxes would be prohibitively expensive both in the cost of the drop box and relating to the collection service for the drop boxes. (But hey…maybe the feds will be sending money with directing the county to buy and service drop boxes.) The Board of Elections is advising voters to download an absentee ballot application now from VoteChautauqua.com so that the election staff can mail requested absentees on Friday Sept. 18th. That will allow for almost two months for the process to work. Further, absentee ballots may be dropped off at any poll site on Election Day by a voter’s family member or agent. Also, ballots can be dropped off during early voting the two weeks ahead of the election at the Chautauqua Mall or County Fairgrounds poll sites. Of course, ballots can be dropped off anytime at the Board of Elections, 7 N Erie St. Mayville NY 14757 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and during Early Voting hours which can be found at VoteChautauqua.com.
What is the plan for Early Voting this year?
Early Voting in Chautauqua County will take place at the Board of Elections; Chautauqua Mall main entrance, 318 E Fairmount Ave. Lakewood, NY 14750; and Chautauqua County Fairgrounds 4-H Building/Ag & Expo Center, 1089 Central Ave. Dunkirk, NY 14048. The two weekends before Election Day Oct. 24, 25, 31, Nov. 1 Noon to 5 p.m. and the weekdays before the election Oct. 26-27 Noon to 8 p.m. and Oct. 28-30 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Can the Absentee vote be trusted?
In New York State, Boards of Elections is managed in a bi-partisan manner. The two major parties of New York State equally supervise the security of the ballot and ultimately must agree on the final election outcome. The strong partisan presence in the bi-partisan management of elections allows for both the losing and winning candidate to trust in the final election outcome.
What measures are put in place to ensure the security of the absentee ballot?
The security starts with the receipt of the absentee ballot application. Each application is time stamped by a bi-partisan team and logged into the county absentee ballot delivery and tracking program. If there is an error of any type on the filled in application, the voter is immediately notified by mail and e-mail/phone for time sensitive applications if information is provided. Starting on September 18th, as ballot by mail applications are received, ballots will be mailed out the same day the application is received with two part return and inner security envelope for the ballot. The ballots are then voted and returned by mail to Mayville post office box 79 that is exclusively used for absentee ballots to eliminate any extra delivery security issues. Ballots may also be hand delivered to the Board of Elections or its poll sites. The voted returned ballot is reviewed for timeliness and that the signature on the ballot envelope matches the signature on file from the original voter registration file. If anything is remiss, the voter will be notified and given an opportunity to correct any errors, time permitting. Finally, all ballots received are placed under double lock and key, with one key for each of the bipartisan election staff charged with protecting the ballots.
How soon will the absentee vote by mail ballots be added to the election night totals?
It is the policy of the Chautauqua County Board of Elections to start counting absentees after the last possible day to receive ballots in the mail, which is thirteen days following the election from military and overseas voters. Prior to the count, the elections staff must check that the voter did not vote elsewhere or at his or her home site on Election Day. The Board of Elections scanned 20,000 ballots from various county school districts at the conclusion of this year’s school elections and is confident that it will be able to repeat that effort and have results, barring judicial intervention, by Friday Nov. 20.