Capital Region

With large share of votes already cast, stage set for Election Day

People stand in line for early voting at the Fulton County garage in Johnstown on Monday, Oct. 26. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

People stand in line for early voting at the Fulton County garage in Johnstown on Monday, Oct. 26. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

Over 30 percent of registered voters in the Capital Region – and about 40 percent in Schenectady County – had cast their ballots in this year’s general election by Monday afternoon, according to state and county voter data.

Over 200,000 voters across seven counties in the region – Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie and Rensselaer counties – cast ballots by early vote or absentee ballot in the weeks and days before Tuesday’s general election.

“Everything is higher,” Montgomery County Election Commissioner Terry Bieniek said Monday of turnout numbers so far. “We are breaking records all over the place.”

In the first presidential election with nine days of early voting, nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers cast early ballots, or about 20 percent of registered voters.

But the majority of registered voters in the state and Capital Region have still not voiced their position in this year’s election as local candidates on Monday continued to press for support, and the presidential candidates campaigned in key battleground states – in their differing styles.

The early vote count signaled high interest and engagement in the region’s cities, Schenectady and Albany, where vote tallies in those counties measured 55 percent or more of the total presidential vote in the 2016 election.

By comparison, voters will need to head to the Election Day polls in higher numbers in rural areas to catch up to relative turnout totals from four years ago. In Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties, for example, vote tallies so far this election amount to about 35 percent or less of the total turnout in 2016. Each of those counties had just one early voting site.

The region as a whole has already counted just short of half of the number of votes in 2016’s general election, when over 450,000 votes were cast across the seven counties. Many more voters, nearly 70 percent of active and inactive registered voters, were still eligible to vote on Election Day after a surge in new voter enrollment this year.

Elections officials across the region said they were grateful to have some of the vote banked ahead of Election Day and were hopeful the early vote would ease lines and other logistical challenges on Election Day, especially with record turnout projected.

“I didn’t know how much the voters would embrace the whole idea,” said Darlene Harris, one of two election commissioners in Schenectady County, along with Amy Hild.

Schenectady County elections officials on Monday readied for Tuesday’s election, where around 700 election workers will fan out to the county’s 55 polling sites. Hild and Harris said they hoped the early vote will enable a smooth Election Day and said anyone encountering a problem voting should call their elections office immediately.

Absentee ballots, which count as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and are received by the county election office by Nov. 10, can be dropped off at the county elections office or any of the polling sites. Voters trying to drop off an absentee ballot at a polling site Tuesday can bypass the voting line to do so.

“It is definitely the highest number of returned absentees we have ever seen here,” Hild said. “By three times.”

Hild and Harris said they hoped to have early vote and Election Day results, which will effectively be counted together, posted around 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

With a higher share of voters filing absentee ballots this year, close races could turn on those ballots, which won’t be counted until Nov. 9. Hild and Harris said they still think results on Tuesday night will reveal a lot about where the elections are headed.

“We will likely know a lot tomorrow night, and in our experience absentees have trended similarly to Election Day,” Hild said Monday. “I think we will know a lot tomorrow night.”

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