If the flood of requests for absentee ballots across the state provides any indication, New Yorkers are fired up about voting in today’s midterm elections.
According to state Board of Elections statistics, 412,643 voters requested absentee ballots this year, more than double the 210,607 in the last midterm election of 2014. That leads Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy J. Zellner to predict a healthy turnout on Election Day for a ballot headlined by the statewide contest for governor and the 27th Congressional District featuring an indicted member of Congress.
“That’s an incredible number,” Zellner said of the more than 100 percent increase in absentee ballot requests. “People are taking this election a lot more seriously.”
Polls are open throughout the state from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The same kind of enthusiasm seems to be percolating on the local level. Zellner noted he received 1,713 requests from Democrats and 1,614 from Republicans in 2014. This year those numbers have ballooned to 4,753 Democrats, and 2,721 Republicans, while a steady stream has come in to vote at the board’s offices on West Eagle Street.
“Before we opened on Saturday morning there was already a long line out on the sidewalk,” he said. “You can tell there’s a lot of energy out there.”
Officials from both parties read the initial enthusiasm as their advantage. Zellner, who is also Erie County Democratic chairman, said the election tea leaves are good for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is seeking a third term against Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive.
“There seems to be a continuation of the energy we saw in the primary,” Zellner said of Cuomo’s September victory over actress Cynthia Nixon.
Nicholas A. Langworthy, chair of the county Republican Party, held a different view. He agreed late Monday that an “uptick in enthusiasm” is evident this year, but attributes it all to Donald Trump’s election as president two years ago.
“His candidacy and victory have made for much more participation in the process,” he said, acknowledging the president draws supporters and opponents alike.
Langworthy noted a stronger turnout in last year’s local elections, but feels more enthusiasm in the contest between Republican Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence and Democrat Nathan McMurray, the Grand Island supervisor also seeking the 27th District seat. The contest is attracting national attention since Collins was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 8 for alleged insider trading, spurring a contest all observers now read as close.
That competitive contest was never envisioned just a few months ago, since the Collins district is the most Republican in all of New York.
“Anyone would be hard-pressed to say this is about Andrew Cuomo,” Langworthy said about the enthusiasm he also views. “The energy surrounds NY-27. If you invest a lot of money in ads, more people will participate.”
Indeed, Collins is especially hoping for solid GOP participation on Election Day. His challenge is to energize a mostly Republican district to mark their ballots for him, despite his impending criminal trial. The question is whether he has successfully motivated those voters, who under the circumstances might stay home rather than vote for a Democrat.
Meanwhile, a flurry of last minute activity was under way on Election Eve, especially on the Democratic side. Zellner noted Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul joined Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and attorney general candidate Letitia James at a Monday get-out-the-vote rally in Amherst, where Democrats are hopeful of encouraging a strong vote.
Other big contests on Tuesday’s ballot include James against Manhattan attorney and Buffalo native Keith Wofford for attorney general, and incumbent Democrat Thomas P. DiNapoli against Republican investment banker Jonathan Trichter for comptroller.
Locally, county Clerk Michael P. Kearns – a Democrat running on the Republican line – attempts to fend off a challenge from Democrat Angela Marinucci. And Democrat Karen McMahon is mounting a strong challenge to Republican Raymond W. Walter for the Assembly in Amherst and Pendleton, while another fierce Assembly contest is under way in the South Buffalo-based district now represented by Assemblyman Erik T. Bohen.
Bohen is a Democrat running on the Republican line who is challenged by Democrat Patrick B. Burke, a county legislator. Bohen defeated Burke in an April special election, and now the two meet in a general election rematch.