Officials confident ahead of November

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 10/21/20

REGION — According to some of the highest-profile politicians in the country, and according to a myriad of stories from national news outlets on the subject, there’s plenty cause for …

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Officials confident ahead of November

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Election 2020 coverage: See statements from local candidates and letters from our readers regarding the election.

View other election coverage from Owen Walsh: A guide to voting in 2020, How to vote by mail in PA, Mail-in voting: fact-checking our opinions.

REGION — According to some of the highest-profile politicians in the country, and according to a myriad of stories from national news outlets on the subject, there’s plenty cause for concern regarding this year’s electoral process. But voters throughout the Upper Delaware Region can probably take a deep breath of relief about their own counties’ elections, according to the officials tasked with making them run smoothly and safely.

Fears about mail-in-voting-induced voter fraud, stoked by figures like the president himself, are likely unwarranted on any scale—national or local.

There are, however, some startling numbers and firsthand accounts from election workers in states like Pennsylvania and New York about the chaotic attempt to employ widespread mail-in and absentee voting amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

After the primary election last spring, New York City was the subject of many anxiety-ridden headlines like this one from the New York Times: “Why the Botched NYC Primary Has Become the November Nightmare.” Such admonitions came in response to the city rejecting 21 percent of all votes cast in the primary.

Things looked just as dire after PA’s primary, and red flags continue to rise. It was revealed last weekend that the commonwealth had rejected 372,000 mail-in ballot applications, primarily due to voters accidentally requesting a ballot twice, forgetting that they had checked a box during the primary which automatically requested a mail-in ballot for the General Election.

But on the smaller, more local scale, officials in election offices do not expect to be as overwhelmed as those in more crowded cities.

As of October 15, nearly 8,000 Sullivan County residents had requested absentee ballots, according to Board of Elections Commissioner Cora Edwards. She said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-era election code adjustments—which have allowed anybody to request an absentee ballot to avoid the spread of COVID-19—partly explain the high number of requests.

“It is safe to say that with the easing of restrictions on the reasons for requesting an absentee ballot during the pandemic, more voters are requesting to vote by absentee ballot,” she said.

Despite the increases, Edwards said that the elections board’s schedule will not be impacted.

“The certification schedule is the same as in all previous presidential years: Certified results by county get sent to the NYS Board of Elections in Albany by December 8, 2020; and the NYS Board of Elections sends electoral results to the federal level by December 14, 2020,” Edwards said.

The commissioner also said that most of the calls they receive from voters have been to determine the status of their ballot and not with concerns with the security or integrity of the election.

“Most voters want to check if their absentee ballot has been mailed out to them yet, or if the Board of Elections office has received their absentee ballot. Other voters ask where their poll site is located,” Edwards said. “We respond helpfully and reassuringly. We have a very capable, hard-working team and operations are running smoothly.”

Officials in Wayne County share this confidence. Wayne County Commissioner and Board of Elections chair Jocelyn Cramer has been issuing weekly election updates to keep residents informed on the latest changes to PA’s election code and ensure them that Wayne County has things under control.

At a recent commissioners meeting, chief clerk Andrew Seder told the media that the county will not be bogged or delayed the way he expects voting districts in Philadelphia and other cities to be.

Wayne County Bureau of Elections Director Cindy Furman has made regular reports to the commissioners, letting them know that more than 7,000 residents have requested mail-in ballots and that her office is ready to count them on November 3.

“We will have a valid election this year,” Furman said.

Click here for more information on the elections in Sullivan County and here for information on Wayne County.

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