Ten O'clock Tuesday morning, Herkimer County Election officials started counting absentee ballots in last month's primary election. The absentees are more than three times the amount they usually have, thanks to the coronavirus.
"We have like 500 permanent absentees. Shut ins, people who can't get out to vote, medical disabilities, people who are out of the state or out of the country. So this was quite a bit higher," said Herkimer County Republican Election Commissiner, Kim Tranter, adding that, this year, there are 1781 Republican absentee ballots.
With a close margin in the family court judge race, and, an unusually high number of absentee ballots, those ballots become pivotal; enough to swing the race in either candidate's direction.
"On election night, Thad Luke was ahead by 93 votes. We have 1781 absentee ballots to vote, so the race can turn either way," said Tranter.
"It's been fine," said Luke, who sat and watched the tedious process of opening and scanning the absentee ballots. "I think there was a lot more nerves and anxiety working on the election. I think the vote's in. The people have made their choice."
While Luke enjoys a 93-vote lead in the Republican primary, Rose has a 10-vote lead in the Conservative primary, with 30 absentee ballots yet to be counted.
"We're optimistic with regards to the conservative line and we're hopeful that we win that, of course," said Mark Rose. "We're also optimistic that we come out on top on the Republican line.
Herkimer County election officials are counting the unusually large number of absentee ballots a new way this year.
"This is the first year we're scanning them from the machines. Normally, there's a lot less ballots and we hand count them. But we knew there was gonna be a large volume, so we decided to go with the scanable ballots," said Democratic Election Commissioner, Anthony Fumarola. "Appears to be going pretty well, but time wise, it's just, there's so many of them it's just gonna take time."
When they first began opening and scanning the ballots Tuesday morning, Herkimer County election officials expected to be done by the end of the week. But on Tuesday, they got through approximately half, and now say they could finish and have preliminary numbers on Wednesday. Luke is on the November ballot either way, on the Independence line. Rose needs to win the Conservative or Republican primary to remain in the race.