Unofficial local results from this year's early voting indicate more Democrats -- or at least people who voted for Democrats -- turned out to vote ahead of Election Day than Republicans.
Looking at some town races in Schenectady and Saratoga counties, Democrats in communities like Glenville and Malta -- suburban towns where Republicans typically do well -- would have won their elections, if counting had stopped after the nine-day early voting period.
By the time polls closed on Election Day, the Republican candidates prevailed in the Glenville and Malta races, though the Democrats turned in relatively strong performances.
This was the first year that New York has had early voting, and many were also voting using electronic poll books for the first time, so many observers were monitoring voting. County boards of election released the results from early voting shortly after the polls closed on the regular election Tuesday, allowing tallies of New York's first early-voting effort to be evaluated separately from overall election result.
In Schenectady County, 2,985 people voted early, or 3.1 percent of the county's 93,224 active registered voters.
Schenectady County Republican Chairman Chris Koetzle said there wasn't a significant effort to get party members to come out for early voting, which may be why Democrats did so well.
"We monitored it, and it looked like the people who voted early were people who would have voted anyway," Koetzle said. "It doesn't seem like it has expanded the voter base."
Expanding the voter base was one of the goals of early poll access, which the state Legislature approved in January. Early voting took place daily at four locations in Schenectady County from Saturday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Nov. 3.
"It just appeared to be something the Democrats took advantage of, but the Republicans obviously turned out on Election Day," Koetzle said.
In Glenville, the early voting results would have given the two Democrats running for Town Board, Andrew Kohout and Eric Buskirk, a win. The figures released by the Schenectady County Board of Elections showed Kohout with 340 votes, Buskirk 335, Republican incumbent Gina Wierzowski with 265, and Republican James Martin, 236.
When final results were tallied, though, the two Republicans won handily: Wierzbowski had 3,676; Martin, 3,344; Kohout, 3,047, and Buskirk, 2,915.
Similarly, in Saratoga County, in Malta the early voting results showed Democratic Town Board candidate Matthew R. Coldrick with 103 votes, to 92 votes for Republican incumbent Timothy Dunn, and 83 for Republican incumbent Craig Warner.
By late Tuesday night, though, Dunn and Warner had won re-election. Final though still unofficial results show Dunn with 1,946 votes, on the Republican, Conservative and independence lines; Warner with 1,712 votes on the same lines; and Coldrick, on the Democrat and Working Families lines, 1,539.
"That's very interesting," said Malta Democratic Committee Chairwoman Julie Galloway, when informed of the patterns. She noted that town Democrats went into the election with high hopes for Coldrick, a Round Lake resident. "He only lost by three percent points, in a town that has a 10 percentage point Republican majority," she said.
Other Democrats whose early voting results in traditionally Republican towns followed similar patterns included Clifton Park Town Board candidate Kerenda Rybak and Duanesburg Town Board candidate Jennifer Barnes. Both lost once the general election took place.
In Saratoga Springs, Democratic challenger Dillon Moran would have unseated Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco 196-184, if only early voting results had been counted. And in suburban Wilton, Democratic candidate John J. Helenek would have beaten long-time highway superintendent Kirk Woodcock, 226-166. In both cases, the GOP incumbents won in the end.
Saratoga County Democratic Committee Chairman Todd Kerner said he also noticed the trend of Democrats doing well in the early voting, and said the party had encouraged people to get out and vote early.
"We did make a concerted effort to inform all the voters in the county of early voting, and as far as who turned out and why, we'll have to analyze it," Kerner said.
Democrats in general have supported the early voting concept -- indeed, efforts to bring early voting to New York were stalled for years, until the Democrats took control of the state Senate in January.
"Everybody should vote," Kerner said. "We get it. People have families, they take care of other people, voting needs to be convenient. We hope next year and in future years more people will vote early."
In Saratoga County, about 1.6 percent of all voters voted early: 2,627 ballots were issued, out of 156,354 active registered voters. The county had three early polling places, but none were in the city of Saratoga Springs, which has the county's highest population density.
Statewide, more than 256,000 people participated in early voting, or about 1.9 percent of all voters statewide. State election officials indicated they were generally pleased with how things went.
“I think it is more than fair to say early voting, by and large, went very smoothly,” said Robert Brehm, co-executive director of the state Board of Elections. “More than 256,000 people voted, and the voters seemed to like the convenience of not having to vote on just the one day. Waiting times were short or non-existent in most places."
“With nothing to compare it to, we don’t know yet if that is high or low," said Todd Valentine, the other co-chairman. "After the election we will get together with our local commissioners, vendors and other stakeholders and review everything. We’ll look at what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what adjustments need to be made to improve the experience and what if any recommendations we may want to make to state lawmakers.”
In 2020, there will be 27 days of early voting overall, nine each for the U.S. presidential primary on April 28, the state and federal primary on June 23, and the general election, on Nov. 3.