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Huge voter turnout possible in region

Huge voter turnout possible in region

Election officials around the region say voters in record numbers have registered this year and are
Huge voter turnout possible in region
Deputy Commissioner Amy Hild organizes absentee ballots at the Schenectady County Board of Elections in Schenectady on Monday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Election officials around the region say voters in record numbers have registered this year and are eligible to vote in today’s presidential election.

Elections commissioners said Monday that the last week has been unusually active, with tens of thousands of calls as citizens prepare to cast their ballots.

In Saratoga County, nearly 10,000 new voters have registered since the last presidential election, according to Commissioner William Fruci.

“The total number of registered voters in 2004 was 138,397 and now we have 147,838,” he said. “Of that total, 6,220 registered between Aug. 15 and Oct. 10 of this year. It’s extraordinary, and I think the interest is due to the economy and the presidential outcome.”

He said the office has also taken in a record number of absentee ballots because people who can’t get to the polls today have already filed their ballots.

Fruci said his office has tried to accommodate people wishing to file early ballots. The office held weekend and extended weekday hours through October.

Elections commissioners in every county said they answered many phone calls from people wanting to confirm they are registered to vote and to know where they should go to cast their ballots.

Aimee Allaud, elections specialist for the state League of Women Voters in Albany, said her organization used to hold numerous voter registration events, but not anymore.

“We find it’s not really necessary anymore. Since the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, most people register to vote when they update their driver’s license or [vehicle] registration,” she said.

The legislation is commonly referred to as the Motor Voter Act.

“There is a downside to the Motor Voter Act in that it opens the potential for errors in the process. If someone’s handwriting isn’t clear, mistakes can be typed into the voter registry,” she said.

The registry books at election sites are used by poll clerks to verify whether a person is signed up to vote. Allaud said voters should know their rights before they appear at the polling place.

“If you get to the table and they say your name isn’t in the book, you can ask for an affidavit ballot,” she said, referring to a paper ballot that will be counted after the county Board of Elections verifies that the voter is registered.

Neal Rosenstein of the New York Public Interest Research Group said voters need to confirm their voting district as well as the polling place to be assured that they can cast their ballots.

“Sometimes there are two or more voting districts in the same room. If you don’t know which is your voting district, you might step up to the wrong table,” Rosenstein said. “The book at the wrong table won’t have your name and you could be refused a trip into the voting booth.”

He said people often just go to the shortest line in the room without realizing that each table could represent a different district.

Elections commissioners said Monday that most people contacting their offices have expressed great interest in the presidential race as well as local races.

The economy and the wars are uppermost on voters’ minds, according to Deputy Elections Commissioner Phillip Lyford in Montgomery County.

“Unless you’ve been in hiding for the last two years, you know what people are thinking about,” he said.

Lyford said about 1,050 new voters registered since April in Montgomery County. Of those, 450 enrolled as Democrats and 300 as Republicans with 275 taking no party affiliation.

“In Montgomery County we’re fairly evenly split between Republican and Democrat with about 11,000 each,” he said.

In Schoharie County, Deputy Elections Commissioner Ellen Snowdon said voter registration is up significantly from last fall.

“We now have 18,000 registered voters which is up over 1,000 from last year,” she said. “We’ve had a great number of calls verifying registrations and voting places and we think there will probably be some delay [in getting into the voting booths] in some of our larger districts. By delay I mean maybe 20 minutes, not hours like in other parts of the country.”

She said many of the calls received at the office were from people who have not voted in several years who wanted to make sure they are still able to cast their ballots today.

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