CAPITAL REGION – Early voters visited the polls by the tens of thousands in the Capital Region this year, but it’s impossible to predict the final 2022 turnout because the American political landscape is a whole new world, local election officials said.
“There’s nothing really to compare  to because the world was a different place in 2018 when we had the [last] gubernatorial race” and midterms, said Michelle Price, Schoharie County deputy elections commissioner. “The world now is completely different.”
Voters hit the early-voting spots in droves – 25,013 in Albany County, 15,600 in Saratoga County and 10,000 in Schenectady County were the highest local totals – in the fourth year since New York state instituted early voting. Early voting was held from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6.
The early turnout appears to be up from last year but down from the previous two years, which included the first-ever year for early voting and also the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, officials said. Turnout is always higher for presidential election years.
In Schenectady County, about 11 percent of the roughly 100,772 residents who are registered to vote overall took advantage of early voting.
“It depends what percentage of it is the whole,” said Darlene Harris, county Republican elections commissioner. “So again, are more people going to vote [Tuesday]? Are we still going to reach our same numbers, but they just didn’t utilize the early voting and that is where the question is.”
In the Mohawk Valley, Montgomery County counted 1,925 voters while neighboring Schoharie County tallied 1,532 – numbers that were up from last year, but down from the 2020 presidential election.
Fulton County election officials are satisfied with 1,964 of 33,170 active registered voters showing up for early voting this year. It’s a bump from the last general election, which averaged about 70 voters a day, and the mostly abysmal turnout during the primaries this year.
“My gosh, you get so discouraged for all you put into [it],” said Lee Hollenbeck, county Republican election commissioner, describing this year’s primaries.
The first and last day of early voting in Fulton County were the busiest, bringing in 273 and 296 voters, respectively. The county BOE expects that some voters wanted to fit casting their ballots around their work schedule, get it over with or had been energized to hit the polls.
A number of high-stakes races fill the ballot this year, and voters are expected to be motivated by high crime and high inflation, as well as threats to democratic norms and reproductive rights. Democrats hold the U.S. House of Representatives by a hair. Gov. Kathy Hochul faces an unusually competitive race in what has long been a Democratic stronghold against U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island.
Across the country, local and federal law enforcement officials have prepared for potential violence against poll workers. Over the years, Price said, the Schoharie BOE has provided additional safety measures for workers in the event of suspicious activity.
“Extremely,” Price said. “It has changed extremely because you know how people are today.”
Democratic Commissioner G. Jeremiah Ryan said that voters in Fulton County are very courteous and treat poll workers with respect. Ryan believes that some voters might be spooked based on separate threats and incidents elsewhere in the country.
His colleague, Hollenbeck, is on the same page.
“Even if you go back to how things were during the last presidential election, [in] Fulton County, they’re all good people,” Hollenbeck said. “With COVID-19 there and lines and everything, for the most part, I hope it doesn’t get like it is in other places, but right now, we have great people in Fulton County.”
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]
Early voting around the area by the numbers