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Voter registration up in Monroe County; higher turnout expected

James Brown

Board of Elections officials said Friday that there are 25,000 new voter registrations in Monroe County so far this year.

The new voters mean higher turnout expectations, said Democratic Board Elections Commissioner Jackie Ortiz.

“We anticipate somewhere between 80 and 85%,” Ortiz said.

She said the last presidential election turnout was 76%.

There are also changes to when absentee ballots can be counted. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order allowing anyone to vote by absentee due to the COVID-19 pandemic instructs county Board of Elections officials to start counting “as soon as practicable.” That means counties don’t need to wait the standard two weeks to start counting absentee ballots anymore.

Deputy Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Nancy Leven said they expect to start counting the Monday or Tuesday after Election Day.

About 94,000 absentee ballots have been requested. So far, a little over half have been processed.

New Deputy Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Natalie Sheppard said it's been difficult to keep up with the demand. Upward of 1,000 people a day are applying for the ballots. She said workers at the Monroe County Board of Elections are processing absentee ballot requests seven days a week.

“That’s why we have to have a lot of people processing this, so we can keep up with the timeline,” said Sheppard.

The Board of Elections also announced a number of new polling locations, including some larger ones to alleviate concerns about social distancing. They are updating their training and adding workers to handle high traffic and lower confusion. All were problems during the primaries in June.

Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Lisa Nicolay said a couple hundred registered Republicans are needed to balance out the elections inspector staff. State law requires that each ballot be inspected by a Republican and a Democrat on Election Day. 

“The only thing you have to be is willing to work a very long day,” said Nicolay. “It’s from 5:30 a.m. to about 10 p.m. on Election Day.”

All the Democratic Party’s spots are taken. 

Cuomo is encouraging unemployed New Yorkers to fill elections inspector spots. He said hatt income will not affect unemployment payments. 

Early voting starts Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 3. You can find voter information here.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.