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Today is the last day to request an absentee ballot

Erie County

Today is the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot, as Election Day is a week away.

This is a big year for mailing in your ballot in these COVID-19 times. The count Monday was 56,000 mailed-in ballots and 95,000 applications. That includes serving military, whose applications have to go out 45 days before Election Day.

Combined with early voting, a lot of voters have already decided who to vote for and voted.

Democratic Erie County Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner is warning those applying this late that mailing in the ballot may not be a great idea  and there are alternatives.

"We're strongly urging folks, if you're waiting 'til the last minute to request this absentee right now, that when you get the ballot in hand, fill it out and seal it in the envelope and then drop it off at an early voting site or wait 'til Election Day and drop it off at a site there," Zellner said. "The Postal Service is telling us it's going to take 10 days to process mail, possibly, in some areas."

This has been costly for the Erie County Board of Elections, which had to buy new equipment, hire some seasonal workers and convert some part-timers to full-timers just to process the avalanche of mail ballots as they come in.

Zellner said there are so many ballots that early processing stages have already started.

"What we do is we open up the outer envelope, make sure the ballot is done correctly, that it's got a signature on it and it's dated and so forth," he said. "If it is fatally flawed, we call each voter, based on the new Cures Act that the State Legislature and governor passed. We call each voter to come in and fix any issues that are a real problem."

Around 300 voters have been contacted about problems and fixed them. Actual counting of the ballots will take place on Election day.

"We were splitting ballots open by hand and manually time-stamping them, one at a time," Zellner said. "That simply can't happen now. So we were able to buy a mail machine which opens the ballots and time-stamps them."

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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