Good-government group urges patience so all ballots can be counted

A line for early voting last week in the Town of Greenburgh, Westchester County. Legislative Gazette photos by Matthew Conradi.

The government watchdog group Common Cause/NY is urging voters and candidates to temper their expectations about getting final results on Tuesday for the sake of democracy.

New York State has experienced massive early voting turn-out in the 2020 election, with an unprecedented number of absentee ballots as a result of the pandemic. New York will not have final election results on Tuesday evening, since absentee ballots can not be counted — by law — until seven days after the election. Military ballots may not even be received until 16 days after the election.

Most immediately, the state Board of Elections will first count ballots from early voting, and then provide Election Day vote totals on election night. Statewide nearly 20 percent of the potential electorate voted early while, as of last week, roughly 2 million absentee ballots were returned.

“New York voters should understand that they will not know the results of many close races until more than a week later, and that this is not the death of democracy but a sign of life,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. “The [Board of Elections] can and must count absentee ballots carefully.

“Any candidate who declares victory too soon or seeks to invalidate the legal counting of ballots diminishes both military and other absentee voters as less worthy than those able to cast their vote in person,” she said.

Last week, Common Cause/NY launched an Election Protection program with more than 800 volunteers statewide who serve as either virtual poll monitors or roving poll monitors to assist voters with urgent questions, protect voting rights, and make sure poll sites are taking adequate safety protections.