North country sees surge in absentee ballot requests

WWNY North country sees surge in absentee ballot requests

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - With elections exactly five weeks away, there’s a surge of north country voters interested in voting by mail.

Staff is prepping absentee ballots for the mail at the Jefferson County Board of Elections.

Republican Commissioner Jude Seymour says they started sending them out last week and requests are already higher than 2016.

He says around 3,500 requests came that year. In 2020, there are already more than 6,100.

“I’m aware of no previous time in Jefferson County in which we’ve had this many absentee ballot requests. This is certainly without precedent,” said Seymour.

St. Lawrence County started mailing ballots last week too.

County elections officials say they’ve received more than 7,100 applications. Last presidential election, it was just under 3,600.

“Nothing, I guess, will surprise me in 2020. The number are shocking. I’m really proud of everybody here for keeping up,” said Jennie Bacon, St. Lawrence County Board of Elections Democratic commissioner.

Lewis County started sending absentee ballots Monday and officials say they’ve doubled their 2016 total, with a little more than 1,200 issued, up from around 600.

“We anticipated increased number of absentees with the pandemic. So we were fully prepared in our office,” said Lindsay Burriss, Lewis County Board of Elections Democratic commissioner.

In Jefferson County, Republicans hold a 60-40 registration advantage over Democrats - mirrored in 2016 absentee ballot requests. In 2020, Seymour says registration numbers are the same, but absentee request numbers have flipped.

“It’s still 60-40, but now it’s 60 percent Democrats, 40 percent Republicans,” he said.

In Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, more Democrats are looking for absentee ballots than Republicans.

But in Lewis county it’s more Republicans making a request than Democrats.

Seymour says election night results are always unofficial, something to remember with the mail-in voting surge.

“I would say, if you have a tight lead, I would not declare any victory because there’s going to be a lot of absentees to count,” he said.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is October 27, but elections officials say people thinking about requesting should do it sooner.

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