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U.S. Postal Service is deciding factor in Tuesday's elections

WBFO File Photo

Erie County Board of Elections workers counted what votes they could late Tuesday night and went home, knowing Wednesday would be just as tough as the last week or two. They are waiting for the U.S. Postal Service to arrive.

When the workers and leadership left, there were 131,000 mailed ballots behind two sets of locks for an eventual count. Thousands more mail ballots are expected to arrive over the next few days, countable as long as they are postmarked by Tuesday.

The results of some key races - really most races - depend on the counting of those mailed ballots. For state and local races, that count can begin next Tuesday, while federal races like the 27th congressional race can't be counted until July 7.

Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said the mailed-in ballots may change the elections process.

"We did receive a lot of mail-in ballots and they're still coming in," he said. "I think this may be the first time where we have the number of absentee and mail-in ballots exceed the number of people that showed up to vote on Election Day."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Ballots will stay under lock and key until they can be counted.

Mohr said the same rules might not apply for the November election, depending on what Albany might do between now and then to change the rules, although absentee voting rules are tougher for the general election than for a primary.

"First county in the state to allow for mail ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic and, therefore, we got a jump on the rest of the state in implementing our procedures," Mohr said, "and I think that goes a long way to ensuring that we don't have voter fraud and that our counts, as they will be done, will be done expeditiously and will be done above board."

How was overall voter turnout?

"Nine days of early voting, where the total of all nine days didn't even reach the first day of early voting last year. I guess there was some question whether it was really needed with the mail-in ballots," Mohr said. "I was surprised by the turnout today. I'm very pleased with the turnout. I didn't expect it to be so high with the number of mail-in ballots that we have."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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