In the run-up to Friday’s deadline for unregistered voters to mail in sign-up forms, local elections boards are working to accommodate a surge in registrants.
“Originally, it started out slow, but we have more than we can handle right about now. We’re coming in early in the morning and on Saturdays,” Saratoga County Republican Elections Commissioner Diane Wade said. “All of a sudden, there has been this big surge.”
John Graziano, Republican elections commissioner for Albany County, said officials there have been keeping a close count on the number of new registered voters, which so far is about 5,800 this election year. That’s about double what it was at this time in 2004.
“There’s about 2,500 more new registered voters [this year compared to 2004],” he said.
Brian Quail, Schenectady County Democratic commissioner, said voters have one extra day to register to vote if they go in person to a Board of Elections-sponsored voter registration location Saturday. He said so far Schenectady County has processed 6,532 new registered voters. For all of 2004 — registrations continue to come in after the deadline to vote in a given year — the number was 8,981 new voters.
“We’re on par with 2004; it remains to be seen if we’ll beat it, but we’re certainly on par,” he said.
Quail said Schenectady County has been closely monitoring the party affiliation of new registered voters, which shows a major advantage for the Democratic Party. So far, among the new registered voters, 3,035 Democrats have registered, 1,135 Republicans have registered; 541 have registered as Independence Party members, 80 have signed up as Conservative Party members, 58 have registered as members of the Working Families Party and 1,683 registered without any party affiliation.
“On Oct. 20, 2004, the Democratic enrollment was 35 percent [of the electorate] and the Republican enrollment was 33 percent. That was about a 2,000-vote Democratic edge,” he said. “Today, the percentage of Democrats is 37 percent, the percentage of Republicans is 30 percent. In terms of raw numbers, that’s almost a 7,000-vote edge for Democrats.”
Schenectady County’s voter registration numbers mirror the nation as a whole. Since the last federal election in 2006, vigorous volunteer groups combined with the contentious Democratic Party primary battle between U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., helped to add more than 2 million Democrats to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 voters in the same states, while the number of unaffiliated voters has dropped by nearly 900,000.
But even in Republican stronghold Fulton County, the number of new registered voters appears to be up.
“It seems like quite a bit more. We’re getting a lot more of them in every day,” Fulton County Democratic Election Commissioner Linda Coons said.
Coons said new voters need only one form of identification to register to vote — either their Social Security number, their driver’s license or a copy of a utility bill that shows residence in the area they want to vote in. She said her Board of Elections then double-checks the voter registration form with the state Board of Elections to make certain no one is registered to vote in two places, to prevent double voting.
Anecdotally, the number of requests for absentee ballots appears to be greater this year.
Wade said Saratoga County hasn’t tabulated official numbers to compare this election year to 2004, but the number of absentee ballots sent out by the board — approximately 4,000 so far — is on pace to be greater than the approximately 6,000 sent out for the 2004 presidential contest.
“We’re at 4,000 now, and it’s only Oct. 7,” she said.
Joan Grainer, a Montgomery County Democratic election commissioner, said enthusiasm among new registered voters and voters applying for absentee ballots appears to be high.
“I just got done with two college kids applying for absentee ballots before going back to school,” she said.
However, the total number of registered voters in Montgomery County may end up being down from 2004.
“Right now we have 28,434. We had around 29,444 registered voters for the 2004 presidential election,” she said. “We’re not there at this time. That’s because of in and outs, people moving out of the area.”
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Categories: Schenectady County