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Erie County Election Day turnout over 35%, e-polling book use to be expanded

Mike Desmond
Erie County Elections Commissioners Ralph Mohr (l) and Jeremy Zellner will be counting paper ballots and analyzing the first year of early voting over the next several weeks.

Erie County Board of Elections officials are still analyzing the impact of early voting, but Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr reports overall voter turnout Tuesday hit more than 35%. That is higher than the local elections four years ago.

Erie County saw the second-highest number of residents cast their ballot early: about 4.5%. He said election officials will be conducting a complete analysis of early voting over the next several weeks.

"The question remains, whether those people who showed up for early voting, whether they would have showed up on Election Day," Mohr said. "However, just the fact that we had the early voting and there was so much coverage of it, helped spur results on Election Day."

He expects early voting to have a greater impact on next year's presidential election, typically when turnout is highest.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Presidential elections are very busy years for the Boards of Elections. They usually result in lines on Election Day, usually accounts for the highest number of absentee ballots," he said. "If people are able to take advantage of early voting days - while otherwise they would have had to apply for an absentee ballot because they would have been out of the county on Election Day - that could reduce the number of absentee ballot requests that we receive, it could result in earlier election results by the fact that we don't have to count paper ballots following Election Day, and it could also mean that turnout could increase during a presidential election."

Mohr said last presidential election saw some 26,000 absentee ballots for Erie County. Paper ballots still need to be counted for Tuesday's races. The numbers reported so far are early voters from last week and machine voters from Tuesday.

He said there are several local races where candidates are within 100-200 votes of each other: in Amherst, Lancaster and Orchard Park. Those races could be swayed by votes yet to be counted. Mohr said state law requires the BOE to wait 13 days for military ballots to arrive, but in general, it could take several weeks for all paper ballots to be counted.

How well did early voting go this first year in New York State? So well, Mohr expects the use of electronic poll books to be expanded, not only for early voting but throughout Erie County on Election Day.

"The use of the electronic poll books is something Commissioner Zellner and I are seriously looking to expand on Election Day," Mohr said. "We found election poll workers were very pleased with it. It reduced the check-in time down to an average of 43 seconds, from the time someone presented themselves at the table to the time they received the ballot. And the voting public very much appreciated the use of the electronic poll books."

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