Q&A WITH MIKE HENRICI
Editor’s Note: With changes in voting procedures resulting from this year’s coronavirus threat, Maureen Murray and Aviva Schneider of the League of Women Voters, Cooperstown chapter, interview Michael Henrici, Democratic election commission at the county Board of Elections, to help clarify the options.
The deadline to register is Oct. 9. To check to be sure you’re registered, go to www.voteotsego.com. You can also go to that website if you’re not registered for everything you need to register. Or you can call (607) 547-4247 to get a registration form mailed to you.
Q: Do you expect difficulties this fall?
We are doing OK, though strapped for funding. The number of absentee ballots is large, so that should help. We expect more voters to come for early voting. Even though we rarely have trouble with lines at polling places, the 6-foot distance may cause the lines to be physically longer. But the number of Election Day voters is expected to be smaller due to absentee and early voting.
Q: What do you want voters to know about early voting?
That’s an important question this year. Voters who have always gone to their polling place might prefer to vote early.
Early voting will be Oct 24 to Nov. 1 at the Meadows Office Complex, 140 County Highway 33W, Cooperstown. On weekends, when few are at the building, there will be signage and a greeter at the door to direct people who are unfamiliar with the building. (Note: for times, go to www.vote-otsego.org)
Q: What should voters know about using absentee ballots to ensure their votes are counted?
The most common errors for absentee voters are not signing the envelope and not sending it in on time. Absentee ballots that are not properly completed are not thrown out. The voter is contacted and sent an affidavit for affirming that the ballot belonged to the voter.
The last day to mail an absentee ballot is Election Day. The absentee ballot may be sent through the mail stream or dropped off at any polling place or at the Board of Elections.
Voters should allow 15 days to get their absentee application in this year.
Q: Regarding postage, will mail-in ballots have return postage-paid envelopes?
No, voters will have to place a stamp, as usual.
Q: Do voters who bring absentee ballots to polling places on Election Day have to wait in line, or can they just walk in and drop off their completed ballot?
Voters will be able to drop off ballots at the polls without waiting in line.
Q: Can someone show up at BOE with an application for absentee ballot and get it right then, fill it in and deliver it (in one visit)?
Since Sept. 18, ballots are on hand. If a person selects on the application “deliver to me in person,” then yes, the voter can complete the ballot and submit it all in one visit.
Q: How will the absentee ballots be counted?
In New York State, absentee ballots are always counted after the election. The state Board of Elections must check throughout the state to confirm that the ballot should be counted. A person who has voted absentee may vote in person on Election Day as well.
The in-person vote supersedes the absentee ballot.
They are counted by hand currently, which takes a few days, but we are looking at getting a scanner.
In addition, every household is getting a mailer, with polling place, dates and times for early and election day voting, as well as application directions for absentee voting.
Q: Have there ever been cases of voter fraud in Otsego County?
We don’t see fraud here. More common are mistakes. For example, a husband or wife signs the other one’s envelope. Or people with Power of Attorney sign
the envelope, which they cannot do.
Q: What about barriers for disabled voters?
We believe we have all the tools and assists for anyone with a disability to vote. The state Board of Elections has also made registering to vote accessible to all voters by offering multiple methods for completing a Voter Registration Form. Voters with special needs may also apply for an accessible absentee ballot using the Accessible Absentee Ballot Application with Instructions.
Q: Your website indicates one polling place change in our county due to COVID. Are these now confirmed or might there be more changes?
We feel pretty solid about what is on the website now. A Fox medical facility in Oneonta is no longer available because of COVID and has been replaced with another polling location. If any additional polling places are changed, we will send mailers to all households in the district, as well as publishing the changes.
Q: Please refresh us on affidavit ballots so we can inform our membership and the public.
An affidavit is for persons who haven’t kept their records up to date; for example, if a person moved but didn’t inform the Board of Elections. We will give the person a ballot and the eligibility of the voter will be evaluated before the ballot is counted.
Q: Do you need more poll workers?
We are well staffed. Otsego County poll worker training sessions have had to turn people away. Interested people can only serve as poll workers in their own county.
Questions, email LWVCooperstownArea@gmail.com.