Voter registration in Schenectady County is up for the 2018 general election, and so far, the rise in numbers is due to newly enrolled Democrats.
With Friday's deadline to register for the Nov. 6 election looming, Democrats have increased their numbers from 35,398 in April of this year to 36,032 as of Tuesday. Republicans, meanwhile, have seen their numbers fall slightly, from 22,977 in April to 22,949 this week.
"Our numbers are definitely up, and we got a very large stack of mail [Tuesday]," said Amy Hild, the top Democrat at the Schenectady County Board of Elections. "That number will continue to increase this week. The deadline is Friday, and we will also take any mail that is postmarked Friday. These numbers will be equal or probably exceed a presidential election year."
Hild's Republican counterpart in Schenectady, Darlene Harris, agreed that November's election will probably draw a bigger turnout than 2016.
"Normally, we would have seen a drop for an off-election year," she said. "People often vote in a presidential election and then wait four years and vote again. To be able to sustain or pass the numbers from 2016 is pretty significant."
Schenectady County's increase reflects the nation's. Two weeks ago, on Sept. 25, National Voter Registration Day was held around the country, and the event attracted more than 800,000 new voters, surpassing the previous record of 771,321 set during the 2016 campaign. National Voter Registration Day was first held in 2012.
"We had a number of events going on that day around the county, so that probably helped," said Harris. "We've also started cooperating with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and I think a lot of people are using that tool to register. It makes things simpler for some people."
Hild and Harris said they expect the numbers to be considerably higher than the turnout in 2014, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last ran for election.
"As of today, our number of enrolled voters is 2,500 higher than it was in 2014 for our last gubernatorial election," said Hild. "We had 89,543 active registered voters in 2014, and this week, we have 92,052 voters. So it's quite a significant increase."
Schenectady County is entirely within the 20th Congressional District, while Saratoga is in both the 20th and 21st districts. Montgomery County is in the 20th and 19th districts.
At the Saratoga County Board of Elections, Commissioner Roger Schiera said he expects the voter turnout to be larger than last year, though not significantly, and not as high as the 2016 presidential election.
"We don't have hard numbers right now because it's all being processed," said Schiera. "I can't really tell you if it will be a great deal more than in prior years. But it does usually change from year to year, and typically, it's always a lot higher during a presidential year."
In Montgomery County, Democratic Commissioner Terry Bieniek doesn't have any new overall figures, but for new registered voters in 2018, the Democrats do show a slight advantage. A total of 435 new voters registered as Democrats this year in Montgomery County, where only 352 Republicans registered. The number of new unaffiliated voters in 2018, 422, was higher than the Republican tally and approached the Democratic total.
"I'm a little surprised by all the new unaffiliated voters, which I guess means that people don't want to be associated with any party," said Bieniek. "In Montgomery County, the Republicans have always had a slight edge, but the Democrats are getting relatively close. We're both just under 10,000, and that's the entire county, the 20th and the 19th congressional districts."
In Fulton County, Cinda J. Spraker, deputy commissioner for the Republicans, didn’t have any enrollment numbers but did say the volume of new registrants seemed a bit higher than in the previous two years.
“We got 20 new voter registrations [Tuesday],” said Spraker. “It does seem that we’ve been very busy registering people the last few weeks.”
Over in Schoharie County, Deputy Commissioner Rich Shultes also didn’t have any official numbers to share.
“I think we’re pretty close to what we usually do,” Shultes said. “The ballot was changed because of some late changes by the Working Families Party, so we do have a lot of people who want their absentee ballots. We also started a new program with the DMV where we receive all of their change-of-addresses, so that’s doubling our workload. But I don’t think we’re going to have a significant increase.”