Absentee Ballots on Express Track, Election Officials Vow, as Early Votes Trickle In
Board of Elections says nine in 10 city primary voters have been sent their envelopes — but early visitors to the polls say they prefer to cast ballots in person.
City election officials scrambled Tuesday to assure voters that tens of thousands of still-unreceived absentee ballots would arrive in time for the June 23 primary — releasing numbers showing progress after some sluggish weeks.
Mike Ryan, the executive director of the city Board of Elections, said at a public meeting that board staffers are working “around the clock” to make sure voters receive absentee ballots “in a timely manner to be able to vote.”
A record number of absentee ballots have been requested as the city navigates the primary amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ballots must be postmarked by June 23 to count for contested races for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislative seats and Queens borough president.
The ballot also contains the names of 11 candidates for president and slates of delegates to the Democratic convention, even though only Joe Biden officially remains in the race.
Out of the 625,000 absentee ballots requested by New York City voters in areas with contested races, about 70,000 had yet to be mailed as of Monday, according to city Board of Elections records. That 89% marks a significant improvement over the 54% previously reported by the board in late May.
Only Staten Islanders have been sent every ballot requested. About 26,000 Brooklyn voters are still awaiting ballots, along with some 23,000 in Manhattan, more than 19,000 in Queens and roughly 1,500 in The Bronx.
On Tuesday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the Board of Elections to speed its efforts, citing THE CITY’s coverage and tweeting: “Fix this. NOW.”
Replying to that, the Board’s Twitter feed recommended the mayor “watch our weekly public Commissioner meetings so you don’t have to reference a 5 day old article!”
The BOE handle later tweeted that any voter who wanted the status of their absentee ballot could direct message them. On its website the Board of Election suggests voters who haven’t received their mail-in ballots yet to contact officials by phone or email.
‘Too Lazy to Wait’
Some voters — but only some — are taking no chances with the mail.
Just over 10,000 people in New York City and 22,000 statewide opted to cast their ballots in person during the first three days of early voting, which began Saturday.
At Campos Plaza Community Center in the East Village, voters told THE CITY Tuesday evening that they preferred tried-and-true voting in person. They’re put off by the uncertainties posed by absentee ballots — including navigating ripped envelopes and locating the correct place to sign.
Jon Giman, 62, and his daughter Annie Giman, 19, voted early together. Jon said that he was “too lazy to wait for the mail” and that he was unsure of “how everything worked” with the absentee ballot.
“I figured early voting would be quiet and less crowded,” he added.
Annie Giman said she voted early to limit the number of people she encountered — and to ensure her vote counts.
“Many mail ballots are counted afterwards if the election is close, so I felt it’s more tangible to have a say or sway in person,” she added.
Others wanted to mark the occasion.
“I felt it would be anticlimactic to vote from home,” said Phoebe McManamon,18, who was voting in her first election.
This election marks the city’s second experience with early voting, which ends on Sunday. In the November 2019 general election, roughly 56,000 New York City residents — a little over 1% of registered voters — cast ballots early.
State election officials have estimated that finalizing voting results could stretch on for at least a week.
Ryan said at the Tuesday meeting that board staffers would follow the same procedure deployed in previous elections by opening each envelope and manually validating each ballot.