When voters in Erie County head to the polls for Election Day, at least 40% of their peers will have already cast ballots. A robust turnout is also expected Tuesday, according to one of the county's two election commissioners.
"The enthusiasm for this race and the selection is very high," said Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr. "Not only do you have the presidential election, but you have a number of down ballot issues and candidates running, the State Assembly, Senate and local offices as well."
Early voting ended Sunday. Mohr says approximately 167,000 voters cast their ballots during the nine-day period. In addition, about 78,000 absentee ballots had been returned. The latter will not be counted for nearly two weeks. Absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day are eligible to be counted if they arrive at the Board of Elections within the next 13 days.
"The reason for that is that we're able then to check to make sure that somebody didn't mail in a ballot, and also go to the polls and vote a second time," Mohr explained. "And also, to allow for the servicemen and women overseas to get their ballots in. That way, we can preserve the anonymity of their vote and the secrecy of their vote."
Social distancing and wearing of masks will be encouraged at polling stations, but Mohr concedes there are limited options to enforce masks at the scene. Inspectors have been trained for working in a pandemic, and some will work frequently to clean surfaces.
Voters are reminded that open electioneering is forbidden within 100 feet of a polling station. Complaints of voter intimidation have risen in other parts of the country, but Mohr says local officials are not anticipating serious problems.
"We have had very few instances in the 27 years and I've been Election Commissioner," he told WBFO. "We've been in contact with the State Police. We've been in contact with the Sheriff's Department. We don't anticipate any problems, but we're certainly willing to enforce any rule violations."
If you do see inappropriate behavior at a polling station, you are encouraged to call 858-8891.
Unlike early voting, where participants had the flexibility of reporting to any polling station in Erie County, registered voters must report to their usual polling place. A citizen who is unsure of their proper location may check it online. An ID is not required at the site,Mohr said. Poll inspectors will verify one's identity by matching that person's signature with the printed copy filed within their books.