WXXI AM News

Multiple ballots spark confusion at Democratic polls

Jun 15, 2020

Credit File photo

Democratic primary voters in Monroe County have not one ballot, but two -- and sometimes three -- to fill out, whether at polling sites or through absentee voting.

The arrangement has caused some confusion ahead of the June 23 primary election.

At polling sites Saturday, the first day of early voting, some voters were unaware that they had to check in at two different tables to receive their two ballots, according to a group of Democratic candidates seeking state office. One of the ballots was for the presidential primary and the other for local and state primaries.

That evening, the group of candidates issued a prepared statement reminding voters to ask for both ballots.

“This is the most confusing election ever,” said Sarah Clark, a Democrat running for her party’s line in the 136th Assembly District race and one of the candidates who signed on to the release. The top reason people call her campaign is to clear up questions they have about voting, she added.

Demond Meeks, who is seeking the Democratic line for the 137th Assembly District race, said he was caught off guard when he went to vote at the city’s Arnett Branch Library and was given only the presidential primary ballot. He recounted asking poll workers why he didn’t receive the ballot on which his name appeared, and that he was told to check in at another table.

When Meeks asked why he wasn’t told up front that he had to check in at separate tables, he said, the worker told him doing so would have constituted electioneering. Some poll workers, according to the candidates, were instructed not to tell voters that they had to sign in twice unless they asked.

“That’s not electioneering, that’s informing people,” Meeks said. He added that he’s worried voters could be disenfranchised if they don’t know that they need to sign in at separate tables.

LaShana Boose, the acting Monroe County Democratic elections commissioner, said Monday that poll workers are informing people that they need to sign in at more than one table. She notes that on Saturday, 95 percent of voters cast both presidential as well as state and local ballots. On Sunday, the figure had risen to 97 percent.

"We do think that our poll workers have been doing a great job explaining to voters that they are eligible for multiple elections," Boose said.

The polling sites also have signs at the door, in English and Spanish, notifying people that each table at the site is for a separate election and that they must sign in for each election in which they are eligible to vote, Boose said.

Clark said she was “initially concerned,” but that the situation had improved by Sunday, when Board of Elections officials instructed poll workers to tell people that they needed to sign in at two tables. She added that signs had also been put up in polling sites.

But there is potential for another round of confusion concerning absentee ballots.

Democrats who applied to vote by mail will receive two ballots, one for the presidential race and the other for state and local races. The ballots are being mailed separately and arriving separately, and voters will need to return them in the proper envelopes.

For the small number of voters who live in the 27th Congressional District, they’ll have a third ballot, whether they are voting in person or by mail.

Republican Chris Jacobs and Democrat Nate McMurray are running to fill the House of Representatives seat that’s been vacant since October, when former Rep. Chris Collins resigned shortly before he pleaded guilty to insider trading-related charges.

Their contest is a special election that coincides with the June 23 primary.

The deadline to mail an absentee ballot application is June 16, though in-person applications can be submitted through Monday, June 22. Absentee ballots that are returned to the Board of Elections through the mail must be postmarked no later than June 23.

As of Sunday evening, early voters had cast 885 local and state primary ballots, 843 presidential primary ballots, and 18 special election ballots, according to the Monroe County Board of Elections. Early voting lasts through Sunday, June 21.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.