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Election officials preparing for a big day

Columbia City Blog

Election Day is here at last and polling places across upstate New York are prepared to be busy, because presidential election years tend to boost turnout.

Voters in New York State today will choose a president, a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative as well as the entire New York State Legislature.  And depending on the county you live in, there are also local elections for positions like county court judge or county clerk.

But the lines will be longer, and the Board of Elections phones busier, so Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Helen Kiggens says you should know where you are going to go to vote.  

That’s because twice as many voters tend to go to the poll during a presidential election then in off-year elections. Kiggens says in Onondaga County that means a 75 to 80 percent voter turnout, and that means 200,000 people in line to cast ballots. She notes about half of those voters will have never used the new optical scanning voting machines that were installed two years ago.

"You’re now voting on a paper ballot The lever machines are gone,” Kiggens said. “The highest turnout we had [was] two years ago [and] was 40-percent. So half the population voting Tuesday have never voted on this system."  

Kiggens says anyone who wants to check out a demonstration of the new machines, can find one on the county Board of Elections web site.  

Onondaga County will also see about 14,000 votes in the form of absentee ballots. One of the issues with those, is that military voters were sent two separate ballots this year - one for local elections and one for federal elections. Kiggens says elections officials have already discussed what to do if there is confusion about that.

"I'm sure that some people flipped them around, so that the local ballot is in the federal envelope or the federal ballot in the local ballot," she said. "And I know there are some out there that have two ballots in one envelope, they put them both in. We've agreed we are gonna count whatever envelope they put them in.  I'm not going to disenfranchise a soldier because he put a federal ballot in a local envelope."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.