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Syracuse City Court Judge, State Senate Race Soon to be Decided by Absentee Ballots

Scott Willis

A tally of the absentee ballots from last week’s primary will likely determine the outcome Thursday or Friday for two undecided races.  Rachel May currently leads incumbent Dave Valesky in the 53rd senate district race by about 600 votes, and there are more than 1,200 absentee ballots from the three counties to count up.  

The three-way Syracuse city court judge primary could also go to any candidate.  Onondaga County’s democratic elections commissioner Dustin Czarny says it’s a good civics lesson.

“I just love examples like this because then I can remind people that their vote does count and that every vote does count because there is always a race every year that's put in the absentee ballot margin and a few votes here or there would have made the difference.”  

Czarny says turnout will likely be around 25 percent, far above the 8.6 percent in the last gubernatorial primary in 2014.  About 18.6 percent turned out for the June Congressional primary.  Despite that progress, advocacy groups like Common Cause feel turnout could and should be much higher if lawmakers were only willing to change the state’s antiquated voting laws.  Executive Director Susan Lerner says allowing early voting has proven to work in the 37 other states that have it.  She says New York is behind the times by allowing voters just one day to cast a ballot.

“Well, the problem with that is unusual things happen in everybody’s lives. Some people are working two or three jobs and it is very difficult for them to get time off or their job is a very far distance away from their polling place and they have to be at work at 7 a.m. and they don’t get home until at 9 p.m. and that is unfair to working people.”

In addition, Lerner says opt-in automatic voter registration at the DMV, for example, has proven in other states to get…and keep residents on the rolls.

 “This takes a lot of the onus off the voter to constantly keep up with the deadlines and the changes and so on and so forth. And it makes the process much more seamless to the voter.”

Lerner says this would avoid the confusion that led to some primary voters thinking they were in the poll book when in fact they were not.  She urges residents to contact their state lawmakers or candidates to demand change.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at