Early voting is over, and in at least one area of Central New York, election officials say they had a big increase in balls cast.
Onondaga County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Dustin Czarny says last year there were about 9,000 early voters. This year, he says that number has almost quadrupled.
“We’re probably going to end about around 32,000 early voters,” Czarny said. “I thought going into this about 25,000. It’s obviously not as big as 2020, but that was a presidential year with the highest turnout since the early 1900s. We don’t have anything to compare to, we haven’t had a midterm with early voting. So I think it’s going about as well as it can go.”
The county implemented iPads for check-in at the polling sites back in 2019.
“You can vote anywhere with the early voting sites,” Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Michele Sardo said. “If you live in Baldwinsville, you can vote in the city of Syracuse. So instead of printing poll books out, we’d have to have hundreds of poll books at one site. It’s easier with the poll pads. Everybody just looks up their name, signs off and goes and vote.”
Czarny says they have been a great benefit, especially for Election Day.
“They’re more accurate,” Czarny said. “If you’re at a poll site and you’re not supposed to be there, it will give you directions to your poll site. It will let us know where you voted early, whether you vote absentee and give the inspectors at the table a lot more tools to get this done and make sure the voters can properly cast their ballot and have it count.”
Czarny says early voting is a positive, even if it’s not the majority of voters seen on Election Day because it its convenient for working adults
“It also helps campaigns get their vote out early and then be able to contact other voters,” Czarny said. “Just because it’s 10, 15%, 20%, it’s still 30 to 40,000 people. That’s a lot of people that it serves. “
Going forward, they will be able to look at the last four years of early voting data and use that information to make early voting more cost-effective and even easier on voters.
“Which sites are the busiest when they’re the busiest, how many inspectors did we have to send out there and in that kind of year, what kind of turnout can we expect,” Czarny said. “So we can right size our workforce and still make sure that the voters have less wait time.”
Polls open back up on Tuesday for the general election.