ITHACA N.Y. — The Democratic Primary for local, state, and national elections is on June 23, less than three weeks away. Residents voting via absentee ballot, though, have some steps they need to take.
In light of the COVID crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all voters be sent absentee ballots applications, voters first need to fill out the application and mail it to the county board of elections, postmarked by June 16. If the choice to vote absentee is due to concern over contracting COVID-19 at the polls, voters should check “temporary illness or physical disability” on the application.
In Tompkins County, on registered Democrats will receive applications, there are no Republican primaries.
Once the application is accepted, the county board of elections will mail back the absentee ballots. Stephen DeWitt, Democratic Commissioner of Elections in Tompkins County, explains how to complete the process.
“Voters will receive two ballots: A ballot for the presidential primary, and a ballot for the State Assembly 125th District, City of Ithaca City Court Judge, and (Tompkins County) District Attorney,” DeWitt says. “After you mark your two ballots, you need to put both ballots in your oath envelope, sign it, date it, seal it, and put it in the return envelope.”
The absentee ballots should be mailed to the county board of elections, postmarked by June 22. Dewitt says that 5% to 10% of the ballots they’ve received were incorrectly filled out, and are being sent back to voters.
“We’re seeing a significant number of people who are not signing that oath envelope which is very important. Voters must put both ballots into an oath envelope,” DeWitt says. “It’s probably 5% to 10%, which is significant. We try our best to get back to the voter and give them a chance to send their ballot again.”
DeWitt says a record number of voters are voting via absentee ballot due to concern over contracting COVID-19.
“Registered Democratic voters received a mailing about two weeks ago with an absentee ballot application. We’ve received around 7,000 back already … I suspect very strongly we’ll have more absentee voters than voters voting at the polls.”
In addition to voters not signing absentee ballots or placing them in the oath envelope, DeWitt expects that the record number of absentee voters might cause another issue.
“Usually on election night, you have a pretty good idea of who has won, with around 95% clocking in. This election night will probably not be very conclusive,” DeWitt says. “There will be more absentee votes to count than we have counted at the polls, and we will not begin counting those ballots until July 1.”
DeWitt also suggests that in-person voters take advantage of early voting.
“Early voting is open for 60 hours over 9 days, at two sites in the county: Ithaca Town Hall and Crash Fire Rescue,” DeWitt says. “This is the first primary we’ve had early voting. It gives the voters a lot of flexibility.”