Suffolk County Legislature presiding officer Rob Calarco issued a statement last week emphasizing that the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections expects to start counting ballots on or around Monday, Nov. 16. Legally, ballots can be received by Nov. 10 and only if they were postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 11.
“What I was trying to do with so much national discussion about ballot counting, people need to understand this is a process we always had,” Calarco said. “When I was first elected to the county Legislature, we were separated by 15 votes, so it went down to the absentee ballots. The thing about New York State is that it requires two commissioners, so it’s set up in a fashion that there’s someone looking over your shoulder and nothing runs amiss. It’s a process and it does work.”
Calarco said of the absentee ballots, “While it doesn’t mean they voted with their party, about 50 percent are registered Democrats, about 25 percent are registered Republicans, and about 25 percent are people who are associated with a minor party or unaffiliated.”
The scrutiny by Suffolk County Board of Elections is not unusual, inferred Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman Rich Schaffer, adding that as of the evening of Nov. 9, there were close to 165,000 ballots received.
“This always happens,” he said. “Under the revisions of the state law four or five years ago, the board is required to bring everything back and do a 3 percent audit. They take 3 percent of the voting machines at random that is agreed by the Republican and Democrat commissioners to make sure the number of people voted match up with the election districts. Once they certify that, they can start with the absentee ballots. They’ll finish the 3 percent audit by the end of this week, then on Nov. 16, they start on the absentee and provisional ballots, where a voter may have had a problem with a machine, so they voted on paper. What’s not usual is the number of people who voted; because of COVID, people were encouraged to vote by mail [and] they did. The good news is that we have a Democrat commissioner and a Republican commissioner overseeing the count and they keep an eye on each other, so any issues are batted down because Republicans are very vigilant as are the Democrats.”
Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman Jesse Garcia commented the absentee ballots were closer to 159,000 countywide, also touting the scrutiny as normal.
“This is a process that happens at every election,” he said. “The state law says that absentee ballots can be received a week after the general election and because of COVID there are a lot of absentee ballots. Maybe the volume is more than in past years, but there are checks and balances. Each looks at if the signatures are accurate, postmarks are there, if it’s a valid vote passed. There’s a little bit more this year because it’s a presidential election and because of different states and their rules. On a political side, I feel confident the degree of victory we attained in key races, with Alexis Weik, Anthony Palumbo and the two Congressional races with Lee Zeldin and Andrew Garbarino, that those numbers will hold along with our local Assembly candidates. We feel confident based on the math that our plan to run up the numbers will prove to be successful.”