Primary election results from Cortland County for candidates seeking state and federal offices have been tallied, with more absentee ballots than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Thomas Brown, the county’s Democratic election commissioner.
“It was a much higher turnout than we normally expect of this kind,” he said.
Winners for the district-wide races were mostly the same as the winners in Cortland County. The only race in which the winning candidate did not lead in Cortland County was the Democratic primary race for the 126th Assembly District, which saw Anna Kelles beat Beau Harbin.
In the county, Claudia Tenney beat George Phillips for the Republican race in the 22nd Congressional District and John Lemondes Jr. won the Republican race for the 126th Assembly District.
However, total statewide votes for the candidates were not available from the state Board of Elections as of Tuesday morning, though almost all results have been counted and sent to the board.
According to board documents, 8,729 absentee ballots were sent out within Cortland County, with 6,581 submitted.
Brown attributed these numbers to Gov. Andrew Coumo’s executive order to allow for absentee ballot voting without requiring an excuse.
Robert Howe, the Republican Cortland County elections commissioner, said that counting was made quicker and easier with the Clear Ballot scanner the board used. The scanner could count up to 4,000 ballots per hour and could spot mis-marked ballots for the commissioners to review.
“It was a godsend,” he said.
Absentee ballots were counted on July 1, but other ballots, like those from early voting, along with the Fourth of July holiday weekend, meant that all votes weren’t fully counted and tallied until Monday, Brown said.
The increased use of absentee ballots meant fewer people voting at locations in-person. There were also fewer polling inspectors.
Instead of the normal 86 Democratic polling inspectors and 86 Republican polling inspectors, there were 44 Republican inspectors and 28 Democratic inspectors, Howe said.
COVID-19-related protocols were in place as well for those voting in-person, such as the requirement for voters and inspectors to wear masks or face coverings and having the polling stations provide hand sanitizer.
Brown said that there were “a good number of people” who voted in-person but there could have been fewer if the governor’s orders regarding absentee ballot voting were not in effect.
With the primaries done, the board will look towards November for the general election, Brown said.
“Right now, that’s the big question,” he said. “How will we prepare for November and what will the situation look like?”
The Board of Elections will be waiting to hear from Cuomo on how the general election will operate — either the same way the primaries did or if it will return to the way voting was done prior to the coronavirus with a majority of in-person voting.
“I’m sure all boards of elections across the state are waiting to hear,” he said. “The sooner we hear, the better for us.”