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Voting 101 in Chautauqua County

What to know as Election Day fast approaches

OBSERVER File Photo

OBSERVER Staff Report

Election Day is fast approaching, but there’s more than one way to cast a ballot in Chautauqua County this year.

The county’s election commissioners, Norm Green and Brian Abram, outlined a Voting 101 for local residents. In total, there are 79,515 active registered voters in the county — an increase of nearly 3,000 voters since 2019.

EARLY VOTING

Early Voting is offered for 9 of the 10 days before the Nov. 3 general election. The first day to vote early will be Saturday, Oct. 24, with the last coming Sunday, Nov. 1.

Locations for early voting include: the county Board of Elections, Hall R. Clothier Building, 7 N. Erie St., Mayville; Chautauqua Mall, main entrance, 318 E. Fairmount Ave., Lakewood; Chautauqua County Fairgrounds 4-H Building/Ag & Expo Center, 1089 Central Ave., Dunkirk

For the next two weekends, early voting will be available from noon-5 p.m. Weekday hours next week will start Oct. 26, noon-8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The busiest times to vote are expected to be the early voting weekends and all hours after 5 p.m.

According to Green and Abram, all county registered voters may vote at any one of the three county early voting locations. Ballots will be printed on-demand for any of the county election districts.

The county Board of Elections will electronically communicate with all other poll sites in real time to block double voting during early voting. Once a voter casts an early voting ballot, they are not allowed to vote again for the Nov. 3 general election voting cycle — even if they change their mind.

VOTING TECHNOLOGY

Early voters and election day voters will sign in to vote on an electronic poll book tablet. The tablet is much like what is used at stores and banks. The signature will be compared to the electronic voter registration signature on file.

Voters will be asked by the election inspector on duty to sign again if they scribble their signature and the scribble does not properly compare with the original voter registration signature on file with the county Board of Elections. Once the signature is accepted, a ballot will be issued to the voter.

The Board of Elections, 7 N. Erie St., Mayville, is open daily starting at 8:30 a.m. for one-stop absentee balloting until 5 p.m. until Monday, Nov. 2, for voting. Green and Abram are urging voters to vote early or vote by absentee at the Mayville elections offices. Voters may also call the election office at 753-4580 until 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, to request an absentee ballot to be mailed.

If a voter casts an absentee ballot and changes their mind after casting the ballot, they may vote early or on Election Day; the absentee will then be set aside and not counted.

The county Board of Elections will notify any voter if an error occurred that might prevent the counting of the absentee ballot. A “cure” letter is sent to every voter providing the opportunity to rectify any error. (Or the voter may be notified by email or phone.)

Common reasons for a voter to have his or her ballot not counted include not sealing the absentee ballot envelope; failing to the sign the oath on the absentee ballot envelope; or family members signing the other voter’s envelope.

Visit votechautauqua.com to determine the status of any absentee ballot.

ELECTION DAY

Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The busiest times to avoid will be noon-1 p.m. and in the evening during the dinner hour. All county poll sites will be open.

Voters who have not moved will vote at the same site as last year, except that Ellery voters who formerly voted at the Heritage Green Health Care Center will now vote at Bemus Point United Methodist Church. Voters were notified by a mailing of the poll site change due to COVID-19 considerations relating to health care facilities.

Any New York state citizen at least age 18 at the date of the General Election who previously registered is eligible to vote. Visit votechautauqua.com and click on “Check Status of Absentee, Voter Registration & Look Where You Vote” to access the voter’s current information, or call the Board of Elections at 753-4580 to check on voting status.

To see a sample ballot, visit votechautauqua.com and click on “Sample Ballots.”

If a voter registered previously anywhere in New York state and is in current active or inactive voter registration status anywhere in New York state and failed to notify the county Board of Elections, the voter may go to his or her new polling place on Election Day or any county early voting site before the election, to fill out a provisional affidavit ballot that will be counted along with the absentees, once the voter is proven to be eligible.

COVID PRECAUTIONS

Voters are requested to wear face masks and to sanitize before entering the poll site. Staff will be sanitizing all touch surfaces following each voter’s visit. Masks, gloves and sanitization material will be available for all voters.

Voters will be limited to no more than 50% occupancy of the building or 50 voters, whichever is greater.

Lines outside of the voting place are expected and being planned for in Chautauqua County. Due to limitations of the number of voters allowed in the building at once due to the pandemic, voters may encounter waits.

The way to avoid the waits is to vote at non-busy times or vote by absentee.

Local election results will be posted at votechautauqua.com. Early votes will be posted on the county website at 9 p.m., and Election Day results will be added to the early results as available after polls close.

Absentee and affidavit ballots will be counted and added to Election Day totals starting seven days after the election. Additionally, valid federal overseas and military ballots have until 13 days after the election to be received and counted.

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