New Yorkers have requested more than 15 times as many ballots for this month’s Democratic primary as they did for the presidential primary in 2016, according to the Board of Elections in the City of New York, meaning the upcoming vote could contain plenty of surprises.
The BOE said Monday it had sent voters about 381,000 mail-in ballots as of June 9, the latest date for which info was available, compared to 23,775 total absentee and military ballots filed in April 2016.
The BOE had received about 437,000 applications to receive a mail-in ballot as of June 9 and is still processing them. New Yorker voters overwhelmingly request mail-in ballots to NYC Board of Elections ahead of the primary.
Given the huge number of mail-in ballots and the high number of heated primaries this year, the outcome of many races likely won’t be known the night of June 23, official Election Day. For contests in which on-site voting yields a margin of victory smaller than the number of mail-in ballots that were sent in, the BOE opens up the mailbag to determine a victor, a potentially lengthy process.
“It’s not elections as usual,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx), who chairs the Council’s Governmental Operations Committee.
“For most of these results, it’s going to take at least a whole week to determine a preliminary winner,” he added.
This year marks the first primary contest in which the state has allowed early voting at polling sites. The process got off to a feeble start, with just 4,037 people casting votes throughout the five boroughs on Saturday, according to the BOE.
But the numbers appear to be steadily increasing, with 7,269 votes cast on Sunday and 10,397 on Monday, bringing the total to date to 21,703.
Cabrera speculated that widespread protests — and fears of catching coronavirus — have kept voters away from early voting sites.
“You have thousands of people literally walking by a polling site [during protests]. I think the vast majority of people are going to wait to the end,” the councilman said of voters who don’t do mail-in ballots.
Among some of the problems Georgia faced in its June 9 primaries, some poll workers reportedly didn’t want to clock in due to fears of catching the virus.
But BOE has tried to keep its sites safe by providing 10,000 Plexiglass dividers to separate poll workers and voters. It’s also acquired about 10,000 face masks and will distribute antiviral wipes and individual pens for voters.
“We’re confident that we’ll have enough poll workers for the June 23 election and that is why it's been so important for us to make sure we have all these safety precautions in place,” said BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.
To qualify for a mail-in ballot, voters were encouraged to indicate they have a “temporary illness” even if they’re just afraid of catching coronavirus.
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said the state should dispense with the requirement.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with coronavirus and instead of having this temporary illness checkoff that a lot of residents have objected to because they're not sick, we need to go to full vote by mail,” he said.
Early voting runs through Sunday, June 21. While the last day to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, June 16, voters have until Tuesday, June 23 to put their ballot in the mail.