UTICA, N.Y. - The Oneida County Board of Elections has already received about double the number of absentee ballot requests than it did during the last presidential election in 2016.
Oneida County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner CarolAnn Cardone says as of Tuesday morning, the BOE has received 13,302 requests for absentee ballots in November's election, and has already set out 12,756 of them.
In 2016, Oneida County received 6,733 absentee ballot requests, and ultimately got back 5,784.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is in three weeks, on Oct. 27.
They must be returned to the BOE or postmarked by election day, Nov. 3.
Cardone says absentee ballots can be returned in the following ways:
- Drop them in a mail box;
- Bring them to a post office and drop them in a slot there or hand them to a postal clerk;
- Bring them to the Board of Elections office;
- Bring them to any of the polling locations while they are open, either during early voting or on Election Day.
So why would someone take the time to bring an absentee ballot to a polling place where they could actually vote in person? Some voters may feel more comfortable handing their ballot to someone with the board of elections rather drop it in the mail.
The Board of Elections cannot open absentees legally until seven days after the election, so it may be a while after election night before we will know who wins certain races.
Cardone says it will take a few days to count the absentees and certify the results even though the county has a certified absentee counting machine to count the ballots, "We have a certified absentee counter so all absentees go through a machine. So counting the ballots may take a few days, but it’s not going to be forever like back in the old days we had to sit and count, hand count them one by one."
Cardone says there are a number of reasons an absentee ballot can be thrown out, "The decision is made by the two commissioners for what reasons ballots can be thrown away would be that if there’s a miss marking on the ballot, somebody signs a ballot, or they fill it out and pencil."
There has been a lot of talk nationally that an absentee ballot could get thrown out simply because someone's signature doesn't match the one on file.
Cardone wants to put voters minds at ease by saying if the signature on the envelope of the absentee ballot closely matches that on file at the Board of Elections, it won't be thrown out by the commissioners, "If they don’t match, it’s very hard to tell because everybody signs different as they get older. If it was a different signature, a different name, like Anna Smith signed Jerry Reed, then we know that we have to put that aside and that’s no good. Unless a candidate or the representative was to challenge that ballot, which they can do so, we target and then it’s up to a judge to decide."
If you are concerned about what your signature looks like on file, you are allowed to go down to the Board of Elections and have someone pull your signature to show you.
Cardone says if you have requested an absentee ballot or even sent one in already, but are worried that your absentee vote won't count for some reason, you can still vote in-person, either during early voting or on election day.
Cardone says your in-person vote will supersede your absentee vote. Your in-person vote will be counted, and when it comes to counting absentees, the Board of Elections will see that you already voted in person and your absentee will not be counted.
"What our office does is, the day after the election, after we empty out our bags, we pull our poll books out, the signature books," she said. "And we have to match every single absentee that we have in this office to the voter's name in that poll book and we have to find out if they went to the polls or not. And if they went to the polls and there’s a signature there, then we put the ballot aside and it does not get counted."
Cardone says if you have any questions regarding voting, check with your county's Board of Elections website, and if you still don't get the answers you need, give them a call.
Finally, Cardone wants to stress, if you have requested an absentee ballot and have still not received it, they are being processed by the Board of Elections so be patient, they are on their way. She says Oneida County just started sending the absentee ballots out last week.