Election 2020: Lessons learned from June primary and NY27 special election

Posted at 11:40 PM, Aug 07, 2020

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Election Day 2020 is less than 100 days away and Board of Elections offices across the country are preparing. In Erie County, residents will be able to vote three different ways: absentee ballot, during early voting and in-person on Election Day.

“While there is going to be some difficulties, there are also new opportunities for voters to cast their ballots,” Erie County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said.

In the June primary and special election, more than 200,000 ballots were mailed out and a little more than 150,000 were returned to the Erie County Board of Elections. Zellner said it is that election, now serving as a “test run” for the presidential election.

“It is. In some ways it’s going to be less complicated than it was in June and in other ways the volume is just going to increase dramatically,” said Zellner.

Zellner said his team learned more seasonal help will be necessary with the number of vote-by-mail ballots expect, but that is dependent on funding. He also said training needs improvement for inspectors. 7 Eyewitness News sent multiple interview requests to Zellner’s Republican counterpart Ralph Mohr, but he was unavailable for comment.

“I think if we want a model to look to what election night looks like is probably more election 2000 more than anything else we’ve seen,” Jacob Neiheisel said. He’s an Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Buffalo and elections expert.

Neiheisel said pack your patience when it comes to election results. But before that, he believes all Board of Elections need to invest in voter education.

Outside of voter education, Neiheisel said there are several other lessons to be learned from the June election. “I think doing the best they can be learning the lessons of NY27. To streamline procedures in house, getting their people training and ensuring they do everything possible to produce the best return rate when it comes to ballots,” said Neiheisel.

As for vote-by-mail, he does believe more voters will turn to this option, which has been under attack by President Donald Trump. The president has repeatedly pushed unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting leads to voter fraud.

“I’d like to assure people that this is something we have looked at, we have tested and there’s really no evidence out there that it leads to more fraud. What there is evidence of is that it leads to more spoiled ballots or less confidence in the process,” Neiheisel said.

Zellner assured voters, every vote will by counted.

“Our staff is ready. We’re preparing now. We’re working with the other agencies that we have to work with and every vote will be counted,” said Zellner.