October 18, 2021

Cortland County to begin tally of absentee ballots July 1

Nearly eight times as many absentee ballots were sent out to Cortland County voters for Tuesday’s primaries than are typically sent out, so you may need to wait a bit before learning whether your candidate won the nomination.

Counting them starts July 1. Thomas Brown, Cortland County’s Democratic elections commissioner, expects counting to take a couple of days.

Until then, the tally from the people who voted Tuesday in person show Claudia Tenney, Anna Kelles and John Lemondes, Jr., are leading as they seek their parties’ nominations for the 22nd Congressional District to face incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), the 125th Assembly District and the 126th Assembly District, respectively.

“President Trump needs allies in Washington – to fight for our common sense conservative values,” Tenney said Tuesday night. “I will continue our great work in Congress to protect our seniors, honor our veterans, save our family farms, and help our small businesses.”

“I pledged to fight for you in Albany, like I have my whole life,” Lemondes said. “With a 60% margin in the early and election day voting, I am cautiously optimistic that I will be your candidate in November.”

The coronavirus pandemic inspired the slew of absentee ballots, as the state allowed voters to vote by mail without a specific reason. Absentee ballots needed to be postmarked by June 23 and cannot be received later than June 30.

“It’s crazy,” said Robert Howe, the Cortland County Republican elections commissioner. The 8,000 mail-in ballots is 7,000 more than typical. If they are all returned, it would be a very heavy turnout for a primary, where Democratic Commissioner Thomas Brown said only 20% of the county’s 27,743 about 5,500 people — typically cast a ballot.

And then there are the voters who showed up in person, like Kathy Kaltenbach of Truxton.

She had considered a mail-in ballot, she said Tuesday afternoon. “But there were so many changes going on, when it came time to absentee ballot, we didn’t know what was going on,” the Democrat said.

The Democratic primary for president had initially been canceled when former vice president Joe Biden became the last remaining active candidate for the nomination, but a federal judge ruled in may the state had to continue with it, and restore the eligible candidates to the ballot.

Then there were other complications to voter turnout. Fewer people were willing to staff the polling stations because of the pandemic, and many of the stations needed more machines to scan ballots because the off-then-on nature of the presidential primary meant some Democrats had to fill out two ballots.

Usually, Cortland County has about 172 inspectors — 86 Democractic and 86 Republican. This year, it had just 72.

Brown said he was curious about what effect the increase in absentee ballot voting would have when the results arrive.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “The turnout may be a little better.”

“We’ll be watching to see what effect the absentee voting has,” he said.