Voters have three options for casting their ballot in the Nov. 3 general election
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HOPEWELL — A long table at the temporary office of the Ontario County Board of Elections is filling up quickly with a growing number of applications from voters requesting mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election. As of last Wednesday, the office had received more than 3,500 applications. Democratic Commissioner Charlie Evangelista said he expects the number of voters who cast mail-in ballots in this election will far surpass the 12,000 who chose that method for the June primary.
“We’ll definitely surpass 12 grand for this election,” said Evangelista.
Ontario County has 74,500 registered voters. This presidential election is expected to attract a record turnout.
Voting by mail — also called voting by absentee ballot — is one of three options voters have this election. Before the June primary, Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive order allowed any voter to vote by mail, in light of concerns with the coronavirus pandemic. The same is true for this election. Voters can simply check the box, “temporary illness,” as the reason when filling out their application for a mail-in ballot.
The other two options are early voting and voting on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. The Ontario County Board of Elections this week is mailing each registered voter a postcard with the latest information, which includes the three ways to vote, details about each option, and how to apply for an absentee ballot.
“There’s never been an easier time for voters to vote,” Evangelista said.
Want to vote by absentee ballot?
It's a two-step process: Voters apply and then ballots are mailed out after the ballot has been certified by the state, in late September. Voters are asked to apply as soon as possible, and also return their ballots as soon as they can.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends sending in your ballot at least seven days before Election Day, according to the state Board of Elections.
At the Ontario County Board of Elections, Evangelista voiced confidence in mail-in voting. “We are not having any issues with our local post offices,” he said. “They are up to speed.”
No worries if you vote by mail, and then vote in person. But only your in-person vote counts, according to the state. Your local board of elections is required to check the poll book — what you sign when you show up to vote — before opening absentee ballots. If you signed in to vote in person, your absentee ballot will be tossed.
Still need to register to vote?
People not registered to vote have until Oct. 9 to register to vote in November. Voters who are registered but have moved, have until Oct. 14 to make the change (https://www.co.ontario.ny.us/107/Board-of-Elections).
Will it be safe to vote in person?
Health and safety protocols will be in place at the polls, according to the Ontario County Board of Elections. That goes for the early voting sites and the polls on Election Day. Masks are required for all poll workers and voters — though no one will be turned away for arriving without a mask. Masks will also be available at the polls for anyone who needs one.
Polling places will be disinfected and there will be hand sanitizer at the polls. Evangelista said there will be clear directions and guidance to ensure physical distancing as people arrive and go through the voting process.
Ontario County is currently training between 120 and 140 new election inspectors. Evangelista said the response to calls earlier for election inspectors, who are also called poll workers, was enormous. The county needs between 360 and 370 trained poll workers in all and will be ready with the required number for this election, with the returnees and new people, he said.
The Ontario County Board of Elections has been operating from a temporary office, at 3920 County Road 48, in Hopewell. The county Board of Elections is scheduled to move to its new permanent home at 74 Ontario St., on Sept. 21. Board of Elections staff is led by the two commissioners, Evangelista and Republican Commissioner Michael Northrup.