By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – In 2018, the first year early voting was permitted, 340 people took advantage of it.
This year, by noon Tuesday, Oct. 27, three days into early voting, 2,053 early-voting ballots had already been cast.
“Saturday this year, more people voted early than in the entire nine days last year,” said Mike Henrici, Democratic county elections commissioner.
Saturday, 544 people voted early; Sunday, 563; Monday, 796.
Throughout the day, the line has stretched from the Board of Elections classroom at the county’s Meadows Office Building, Town of Middlefield, to the parking lot.
It moves quickly, with most people voting in 12 minutes or so. First thing in the morning, while people are waiting for the doors to open, the line gets a little longer.
“The longest people have waited is 15 minutes,” said Lori Lehenbauer, Republican elections commissioner.
“It’s been going smoothly,” said Henrici.
Early voting was instituted that some people, out of fear during the COVID-19 threat, would not vote to avoid a crush of voters on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Polls will be open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. that day as races for president, congressman, state senator and assemblyman are decided.
The other option to avoid crowds was absentee voting.
The deadline to obtain an absentee ballot was midnight Tuesday, Oct. 27, and Lehenbauer and Henrici saw numbers rise there, too.
By noon Tuesday, 5,885 absentee ballots had been requested. “Normally,” said Lehenbauer, “we have about 2,500 in a presidential/general election.”
Because of interest in Republican President Donald Trump vs. Democratic challenger Joe Biden, staffing was beefed up to accommodate absentee-ballot and early-voting demand, the commissioners said.
Last year, two tables were staffed for early voting. “This year, we decided we needed more,” said Lehenbauer, and they added a third.
This year, each voter is checked electronically against voting rolls, and a ballot is then printed out for that voter, who marks the ballot and inserts it in the scanner.
This also allows voters to approach any of the three tables, and keeps the queue going.
The electronic-register system will also be used on Election Day.
Because both early ballots and Election Day ballots are being run through the scanning machines, those results will be available Election Night.
However, the absentee-ballot count locally won’t start until Tuesday, Nov. 10, and should take two days.
The state Board of Elections is required to certify absentee-ballot results by Dec. 7.
So, depending how close races may be, it could be a while before results are clear.