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People line up to vote early

Essex County records 580 votes on opening weekend; that’s double last year’s entire early voting period

On Saturday morning as a cold front moved over the Franklin County Courthouse in Malone, cars slowly began pulling into the lot outside the Board of Elections office for the first day of early voting in New York.

By 9 a.m., when the poll workers finally opened the doors, about a dozen masked voters were huddled in the cold, spaced at an appropriate distance. The early voters waited, chatting and wishing they’d brought coffee. When one voter spied the “no masks, no entrance” sign on the door, another gave her an extra mask.

The voters were ushered down a labyrinthine route to the basement polling station, where they were given ballots and submitted them in what looked like two old, black Xerox machines. The whole process took maybe 20 minutes, but by then the line was already stretching around a few hallway corners.

In Essex County more than 500 have already cast their votes in the general election. Franklin County numbers were not available on Sunday.

According to Republican election Commissioner Allison McGahay, 325 people in Essex County turned out on the first day to vote, with lines lasting as long as 40 minutes. On Sunday, 255 people voted.

McGahay said for last year’s general election — the first in New York with early voting — over the nine days of early voting there were 290 early voters in the county.

This year, with increased interest in the presidential election and during a pandemic when many voters are voting by alternate methods, the county is on track to reach record numbers of voter turnout, across all three methods of voting: absentee, early and on Election Day.

McGahay said of the 4,607 absentee ballots the county has distributed, 2,992 had been returned as of Sunday afternoon. That’s already almost double the number counted in total for the 2016 presidential election. According to McGahay, usually the county would be able to handle this easily, but COVID-19 and the physical distancing it requires has meant that lines will take longer to get through.

“Every voter who comes out to early voting is going to lessen the number who show up to the poll site on Election Day,” McGahay said.

Early voting in Franklin and Essex counties can only take place at one location in each county. For Franklin County, voting is happening is the county Board of Elections office in the county courthouse, 355 West Main St., Malone. For Essex County, voting is happening in the county Public Safety Building in Lewis, at 702 Stowerville Road.

Voting will continue every day through Sunday, Nov. 1, with varying hours. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, when polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. To be eligible to vote on Election Day, you will need to be in line at the 9 p.m. close of the polls; anyone arriving after the polls close will not be able to vote.

The election office can receive absentee ballots until Nov. 10 if they’re postmarked by or delivered on Nov. 3. Military absentee ballots can come in up to Nov. 17.

Changing votes

Early voters are not eligible to vote again on Election Day. However, someone who votes absentee ahead of time can vote in person on Election Day to replace their absentee ballot.

McGahay said the county waits to open absentee ballots until at least one week after the election so they can check if that person voted in person. If they did, their absentee ballot does not get opened. This ensures they only vote once.

If a person requests multiple absentee ballots and submits them, but doesn’t vote in person, only the ballot that’s postmarked last will be counted.

EARLY VOTING HOURS

Essex County:

¯ Monday, Oct. 26 from noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Wednesday, Oct. 28 from noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Thursday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Friday, Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Saturday, Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

¯ Sunday, Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Franklin County:

¯ Monday, Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Tuesday, Oct. 27 from noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Wednesday, Oct. 28 from noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Thursday, Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Friday, Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Saturday, Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

¯ Sunday, Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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