This election year has already been unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least ninety-five million Americans have voted before Election Day thanks to early voting and mail-in ballots; which makes up more than two-thirds of the total voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election. Deputy Director for League of Women Voters in New York State, Jennifer Wilson, says this large turnout before the election shows how useful early voting can be.
“A lot of critics were saying ‘no one’s using early voting, why are we doing this? This is a waste of time and money’, so now to see so many people taking advantage of early voting is really incredible.”
Wilson adds this trend of people voting early could continue into future election years, and the state should consider additional funding for early voting to match the level of participation.
“This is a major election year. People are wanting to vote. They aren’t going to want to wait in lines on election day. They’re going to take advantage of early voting. We need to give counties money so that they can upscale what they did for 2019.”
The League of Womens Voters has also been working to protect mail in ballots from getting tossed out. In years past, using the wrong colored pen, or a stray mark, could cause ballots to be disregarded in New York State, but Wilson says new laws will protect voters who make mistakes on their ballots.
“Our hope is that very few things are going to invalidate ballots and it’s really just the signature. If your signature doesn’t match, if it’s very very different or if you didn’t sign, those are the things that they’ll reach out to you and say, ‘hey this isn’t looking like you’”.
Wilson expects this election to test the patience of voters more than ever. Typically, only four percent of votes in New York State are cast via Absentee ballots, but this year the percentage will be way higher, which will likely cause New Yorkers to wait longer than ever to hear who won on both the state and national level.
“So I really don’t think we’ll have true results until after Thanksgiving. For the national race--the presidential race--we have to wait for all the other states to finish what they’re doing. Don’t expect results right away, be patient.”