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Election night 2020: What to expect from Democrats, Republicans in central New York

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Early voting in Syracuse.

No parties, no balloon drops, and in some cases, no winners or losers. All the usual trappings of election night will be missing because of the coronavirus pandemic. This will be an election night like no other.

When polls close at 9 p.m., candidates for every office, from family court judge to Congress will be alone, maybe with family, maybe with a small group of supporters, to watch election returns. Onondaga County Democratic Party Chair Pamela Hunter said Democratic candidates are essentially on their own.

"There will be no, new for us, election night party,” Hunter said. “And we’re not going to have results anyway, so each campaign will have their own, where they're going to be on election night.”

Republicans are doing it a little differently. Party Chair Benedicte Doran said candidates will be able to hole up at a local hotel in individual suites, available to the media if they want, but otherwise separated from each other.

"Someone who wants to make remarks, they’ll come down with their team, they’ll leave, then another team can go,” Doran said. “So, we’re trying to keep it safe, but accessible. We’re going to have Facebook Live for supporters who can’t attend.”

In some cases, there won’t be any winners to celebrate or losers to console, because of the record number of absentee ballots. There could be more than 60,000 absentee ballots in the hotly contested four-county 24th Congressional District. Absentees by law, cannot start to be counted until seven days after the election. Incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), will watch returns from his home, and doesn’t expect to go to bed, either a clear winner or loser.

"I highly doubt we’ll know the answer by the time polls close, because there are so many absentee ballots,” Katko said. “The only good omen is they start counting them on November 9, which is my birthday."

Democrat Dana Balter, challenging Katko, also plans to spend most of the evening watching returns at home. She’ll have a Zoom meeting with supporters, and said her biggest advice for them is to be patient waiting for a final tally.

"Because what the interim result on election night is going to look very, very different in most places than what the final result, after all the votes are counted, is,” Balter said.

And that may be the most difficult part of this election night; an evening we are used to getting answers, will in some cases, leave us without a definitive winner or loser. 

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.