9 burning questions about voting, and vote counting

Your Local Election HQ

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — We thought we might tackle some questions you might have about voting and the vote counting process.

Why is the Democratic candidate listed first on my ballot?

Well, someone has to get the first line on the ballot, and in New York, election law spells out that the order political parties appear on your ballot is based on the number of votes that party’s candidate received in the last race for governor.

In 2018, Democrat Andrew Cuomo won re-election, and therefore until 2023 Democrats will have the first spot on the ballot. Republicans have the second, followed by the Conservative, Working Families, Green, Libertarian, Independence, and SAM parties.

There’s a viral Facebook post that warns readers not to let a poll worker write anything on their ballot because it would invalidate that ballot.

One of Onondaga County’s election commissioners, Dustin Czarny, told us, “Any writing on a ballot would be grounds for it to be thrown out, however, our machine catches that, spits the ballot out and tells the voter to get a new ballot.  Our inspectors NEVER write on the ballot and hand out a pen with the ballot.”

What if Nine O’clock arrives on election night and there’s still a line of 20 people in front of me waiting to vote. Do I still get to vote?

Yes we are told by the board of elections. If you are in line at closing time, you get to vote.

Why are they “unofficial results?”

When you watch NewsChannel 9 or check-in at localsyr.com or even at your local board of elections website, you will see the numbers referred to as unofficial results. What does that mean?

The numbers we receive from the board of elections are provided as a public service to the public, candidates, and media.  The results are officially certified in New York by the State Board of Election on December 7. In between election night and certification, county elections officials have to count absentee and military ballots.

The results are officially certified in New York by the State Board of Election on December 7. In between election night and certification, county elections officials have to count absentee and military ballots.

They also compare the hard drives on each voting machine. One drive is removed and driven to the board of elections on election night. This provides the numbers we report on election night.  The other stays under seal with the machine and the results are compared when the machines return to the board of elections. 

Courtesy Onondaga Co. Board of Elections

When are the absentees counted?

This year New York allowed anyone with COVID-19 safety concerns to request an absentee ballot. That has led to a record number of absentees in many counties.

Absentees must be postmarked by November 3, and arrive no later than November 10 to be counted. Onondaga County tells us they will start counting them on November 9.

Who’s watching the polls?
We’re told by the board of elections that poll workers are registered Republicans and registered Democrats to keep a bipartisan check at the polls. In some areas where there may not be enough registered party members, voters who are not enrolled in a party may be hired.

How many Electoral Votes does New York have?

New York has 29 electoral votes. That is the total of the 27 congressional districts in New York plus its two U.S. Senate seats.

California has the most with 55 electoral votes, and Texas has the second highest with 38. New York and Florida are tied for third with 29 each.

When do the Electors meet? 

Electors meet on December 14th in their respective states to cast their ballots. Ballots must be received by the President of the Senate (VP of the United States) by December 23. 

Electoral votes in this year’s election are officially counted on January 6, 2021, by a joint session of Congress.  Electors in New York are chosen by each political party.

What if I’m not permitted to vote?

According to the Onondaga County Board of Elections website you should call the office for further assistance at (315) 435-8683. For other counties refer to this interactive map provided by the state board of elections for contact information for your board.

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