What's next for absentee ballots in WNY?

New legislation would send all New Yorkers absentee ballots
Posted at 11:31 PM, Nov 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-04 23:31:56-05

WESTERN NEW YORK, N.Y. (WKBW) — In New York state more than 2.2 million absentee ballots were mailed out and nearly half were returned so far, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Many counties saw a record-breaking number of absentees that will continue to grow.

Ballots needed to be postmarked by election night, but board of elections across the state can accept U.S. mailed absentees through November 10th.

Across Western New York, a combined more than 100,000 absentee ballots have so far been returned.

Allegany as of 11/3
Issued: 3,613
Returned: 2,915

Cattaraugus as of 11/3
Issued: 5,395
Returned: 4,520

Chautauqua as of 11/4
Issued: 11,929
Returned: 10,234

Erie as of 11/3
Issued: 93,946
Returned: 80,988

Genesee as of 11/2
Issued: 4,963
Returned: 3,813

Niagara as of 11/3
Issued: 18,925
Returned: 14,589

Orleans as of 11/1
Issued: 2,907
Returned: 2,225

Wyoming as of 11/3
Issued: 2,355
Returned: 1,993

Erie County saw the most issued and returned absentee ballots in the region at nearly three times its previous record.

“Absentee ballots are live votes. They’re votes that have yet to be counted. What this is is a snapshot of the results as they exist at this time,” said Republican Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr.

The state does not allow counting before or on election day unlike other states. Ballots can be processed and prepped for when counting can begin ahead of time.

“Our results are finally in but nobody can really declare victory unless they have a vary wide margin. So it’s just another strange thing piled into 2020,” said Democrat Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner.

There is no set date for when every board of elections starts the counting process. According to the New York Times, counting has to wait until at least three days after election day to ensure someone did not vote both in person and by absentee.

The counting of absentee ballots start times vary across Western New York.

Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee and Orleans Counties begin counting on November 10th. Niagara County will start on November 12th and Erie County will begin on November 17th. 7 Eyewitness News is waiting to hear back from Wyoming County Board of Elections on the matter.

“We wait the 13 days to allow for military service men and women overseas, overseas personnel diplomas to be able to get their ballots back to the board of elections. That preserves the anonymity of the votes. They don’t change over the course of the 14 days,” Mohr said.

Whatever the wait time, board of elections will be busy during that time organizing ballots and going over a series of checks.

“We’re going to count every ballot as we do every single year. But whether they’re going to make a difference in the race is something that’s going to have to be figured out by the candidates,” said Zellner.

The length of the process varies county-by-county. In Erie County, counting all of the absentee ballots is expected to take two-to-three days to complete. Results are due to the state after Thanksgiving.