Erie County, legal experts share importance of voter due diligence when at precincts

Posted at 11:53 PM, Nov 01, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Ahead of Election Day, 7ABC showed the candidates in the race for Buffalo mayor.

However, that will not be what is shown Tuesday night because three of the four candidates are write-ins.

Here is an example of what will be seen on 7ABC's screens once votes are counted after 9 p.m.

India Walton's vote total will be shown, along with the number of total write-in votes. It will not be known for sure how many of those go to Mayor Byron Brown, Ben Carlisle and Jaz Miles.

7ABC's Pheben Kassahun took a closer look at what can be expected Tuesday night.

"We have had write-ins in the past, on a much smaller scale, but this is the first test we're going to have where we have thousands and thousands of potential write-in votes," Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said.

The Republican commissioner said election tellers will do a visual count of the ballots. It is a transparent process, one that each campaign can observe in person.

"If the vote is for a person who is listed on the ballot, that oval has to be filled in. With respect to the write-in, it doesn't necessarily have to be a filled-in oval," Mohr said.

If a voter votes for a candidate who is on the ballot, they will need to fill in the bubble next to the candidate's name.

If a voter votes for a write-in candidate, they must write-in or stamp the candidate's name in the correct location.

University at Buffalo department of political science professor, Shawn Donahue said, "Let's say you're voting in the mayor's race, it's going to be in the bottom right-hand corner. So, you don't want to let's say, write-in Byron Brown for a different office. If you're writing the candidate's name, it's helpful to fill-in the bubble, but the Board of Elections seems to indicate that if you don't fill-in the bubble, you're still going to inspect those ballots in the City of Buffalo, and that would count if you put it in the right location."

In Erie County, poll-watchers will count the vote if they can determine the voter's intent.

"So, there's basically two rules with respect to the write-in: that would be that it is in the proper column because a number of offices that are on the ballot and if the write-in is identifyable to a candidate who is actively seeking that office," Mohr said.

Mohr said if Walton receives more than 50% of the votes, it's safe to say she has won the mayor's race before finishing the count.

"And all that will be required will be to see what the margin is of absentee ballots and other emergency and provisional ballots have to be counted," Mohr added.

Both Mohr and Donahue anticipate the counting of the votes will be challenged in court.

Donahue said, "Let's say if the election commissioner counts certain votes or don't count certain votes, that one of the candidates that does not like that decision could try to appeal."

"We have had procedures which we have had at the Board of Elections. We're going to be following the same procedures," Mohr said.

So how long will it take for Buffalonians to learn who their mayor will be?

"We are required to certify the election by November 27th. We have met the deadline each and every year, and we expect to do that again," Mohr added.

Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said anyone with questions can call the board of the elections tomorrow as early as 5:30 a.m. and throughout the day until polls close.

Voters can also visit the county's website for more resources like knowing where their designated polling site is located and a copy of the sample ballot.