BUFFALO, N.Y. — The pandemic has changed so much in our lives, and of course there is an impact as well on Tuesday's primary election here in Western New York. There are some key points to keep in mind if you still plan to vote in person.
Erie County Election Commissioner (D) Jeremy Zellner phrases it this way, "This is something like we've never seen before." While his GOP counterpart Commissioner Ralph Mohr says, "This is the most difficult election we've ever had."
The two men preparing and overseeing Erie County's primary election on Tuesday say they've tried to think of and plan for all the challenges of this very unusual round of balloting. They realize that most people have probably already chosen their candidate because of early voting and especially absentee, mail-in ballots.
Over 200,000 absentee ballots were sent out to people who requested them online or with a mailed application. That option was opened by the state because many voters may not want to go to a polling place in person with COVID-19 concerns.
The board of elections already received about half of those absentee ballots and more could come in Tuesday or later. Some were just mailed out by the board last week according to Zellner, "If anyone gets their ballot today (Monday) or if they get their ballot in the mail tomorrow...they've gotta postmark it by tomorrow ( Tuesday)."
The next issue is making sure all those votes are only properly count once.
"Open up the outer envelopes, make sure that the ballots and security envelopes are assigned to an individual and they're also alphabetized," Mohr said. "They all have to be checked to make sure that the person who cast that mail-in ballot also didn't show up for early voting or also didn't show up to vote at the polls tomorrow."
A duplicate ballot will of course be thrown out. So how confident are they there won't be vote fraud with all the voting options?
"We put additional safeguards in place throughout the entire process of the application and the receipt of the ballot," Mohr said. "We haven't seen any evidence of voter fraud. We continue to keep those same safeguards in check.
"If you do vote in person on Tuesday it's best to wear a mask. You can vote without one but you may have to wait for social distancing. Also take your own pen for safety sake. And it is a good idea to check the Erie County Board of Elections website before you go to check the information.