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Absentee ballots could boost ‘record-breaking turnout’ for June primary in central NY

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
A polling location in Syracuse.

As thousands of absentee ballots are returned, central New York could have a record-breaking turnout for the June primary, next week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing all eligible voters to request absentee ballots, to limit the number of people voting in person, because of the coronavirus pandemic. And for those who do vote in person, they will have to follow some new health safety measures.

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said more than 30,000 county residents have requested an absentee ballot for this primary, and 16,000 ballots have already been returned.

“This is an incredible number considering we usually only get 18,000-20,000 voters, inclusive of every style of voting,” Czarny said. “There is a lot of interest in this election and there is a lot of interest in voting absentee in this election.”

Absentee ballots need to be postmarked by primary day on Tuesday, June 23. In-person early voting has already begun in Onondaga County at six locations. Election inspectors and voters are required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Voting stations are disinfected after each user. The number of polling sites on primary day has been reduced slightly, so they are not held at senior housing and nursing home facilities. Polls on primary day will be open longer, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Czarny said mail-in voting could make up 50-70% of the total vote this year. And while they will be able to report the results of early and primary day voting Tuesday night, the final results may not be announced until nearly two weeks later. 

“We can’t even open absentees until around July 2,” Czarny said. “They have so long to come to us and we do a statewide check to make sure that they don’t vote anywhere else in the state. With the July 4 holiday, we probably will not know winners until July 6 or 7.”

Every Democrat in the state is eligible to vote in the primary, as they will be selecting their preferred presidential candidate. Democrats in the 24th Congressional District will select a challenger to Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). And Republicans in the 126th Assembly District, will choose who they want to replace Assemblyman Gary Finch, who is stepping down.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.