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On this Election Day, some have already voted

All polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today

Voters fill out ballots Monday, Oct. 28 at the Essex County Public Safety Building in Lewis. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

The state’s first-ever early voting period ended Sunday, and the new offering drew less than 1.3% registered Franklin and Essex County voters to the polls.

That percentage was a little lower than the statewide turnout of 1.9%. Local county Board of Elections commissioners are echoing their colleagues around the state, who say it’s too soon to tell whether the nine-day early voting period will affect overall voter turnout.

“It’s an off year, so it’s going to be a little while after the election to figure out early voting’s effect,” said Franklin County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Tracy Sparks. “The question is, did early voting attract people who don’t normally vote, or are these consistent voters who just happened to do it early? Did it really change things? Also, how many of these people are newly registered, first-time voters?”

Early voting started Oct. 26 and ended Sunday, Nov. 3, with a brief interruption Friday, Nov. 1 in Essex County, due to lawmakers declaring a state of emergency following high winds and flooding along the AuSable and Schroon rivers.

Essex County

In total, 294 people — or roughly 1.2% of the Essex County’s total 24,148 registered voters — cast ballots at the county’s early polling station in Lewis.

Overall, the highest voter turnout came from towns nearby: Voters from Elizabethtown, 50 total, made up the largest majority despite having just two contested local races on the ballot, one for county clerk and another for town justice.

However, voters registered in towns that are farther away, but where there are highly contested races, also turned out. North Elba, where there are four candidates running for town supervisor and six for two town council seats, saw the second-highest turnout with 38 voters casting ballots early. There were 27 voters from Keene, where there’s a contested town justice race and five candidates running for two council seats. And Willsboro — where town Supervisor Shaun Gillilland is defending his seat against challenger Wendy Sayward, there are three candidates for town clerk and three candidates for two town council seats — 26 people cast ballots early.

Essex County Democratic Election Commissioner Sue Montgomery-Corey said the first day of early voting, Oct. 26, drew the largest crowd — 44 voters, or nearly 15% of the total number of people who cast ballots early.

Those who turned out to vote came from both major parties in nearly equal numbers.

Republican voters, who make up a majority of the registered voters in this county, represented 120 of the total ballots cast, according to the Board of Elections. One hundred and seventeen Democratic voters turned out, plus 38 “blank” party voters, 18 Independence Party voters and one Conservative Party voter.

“I think the early voting period went very smoothly, in no small part because of the Board of Elections staff and our poll workers. They did a fantastic job,” said Montgomery-Corey. “Voters I spoke to said it was a smooth, positive experience for them.”

Franklin County

Franklin County had a total of 328 early voters cast their ballots at the county offices in Malone. That’s 1.3% of the county’s 25,350 registered voters. The county also sent out 390 absentee ballots.

The biggest turnout came from Malone with 232 voters. Next was the neighboring town of Burke, with 15 early voters, and Harrietstown in the county’s south end, with 13. The rest of the towns in Franklin County saw fewer than 10 early voters each. Santa Clara didn’t have any.

Franklin County used electronic poll books for early voting. The devices are used just for signing in to vote, not actually casting votes. That is still done with paper ballots.

“They worked great,” Sparks said of the electronic poll books. “We received positive feedback on them. We also had a ballot-on-demand printer we use for early voting, which gave us zero problems.”

The state

Statewide, more than 256,000 residents early voted over the nine days, according to a press release from the state Board of Elections in Albany. That’s approximately 1.9% of all New York registered voters.

“With nothing to compare it to, we don’t know yet if that is high or low,” Todd Valentine, co-executive director of the state Board of Elections, said in a statement. “After the election we will get together with our local commissioners, vendors and other stakeholders and review everything. We’ll look at what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what adjustments need to be made to improve the experience and what if any recommendations we may want to make to state lawmakers.”

This year, the state had to deal with only nine days of early voting, but in 2020 there will be 27 days total, between primaries and the general election.