Local Election Update

Susan Prazenka

Susan Prazenka, an official with the Putnam Board of Elections, processes an absentee ballot on Wednesday (Nov. 18) in Carmel. Putnam has completed its tally of more than 11,000 mail-in votes. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

Absentee count completed

Dutchess and Putnam county election officials said this week they had completed the unofficial tally of absentee ballots from the general election, with a Nov. 28 deadline to certify the local results.

Election officials were also processing about 1,800 “affidavit ballots” in Dutchess and 424 in Putnam; these are used when a person cannot immediately be verified as eligible to vote, such as because he or she went to the wrong polling place.

Mail-in and affidavit ballots were expected to be a factor in only one Highlands race, for Dutchess County judge. Republican incumbent Peter Forman was leading challenger Jessica Segal on Election Day by 8,299 votes but saw that advantage slowly disappear as absentee ballots were counted.

coffee at election

A neighbor and her 2-year-old son shared coffee and hot chocolate with voters waiting in line on Nov. 3 at the Methodist Church in Cold Spring. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

As of Thursday (Nov. 19), Segal appeared to have won the race by about 3,500 votes of some 140,000 cast, after winning 66 percent of the more than 31,000 absentee ballots.

With absentees counted, President-elect Joe Biden widened his lead in Dutchess County over President Donald Trump to 56 percent of the vote; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney gained about 11,000 votes over his Republican challenger, Chele Farley; and Democrat Karen Smythe cut into state Sen. Sue Serino’s lead by 9,000 votes but was still far short of overcoming the incumbent Republican’s 19,430-vote advantage.

The turnout of registered voters in Dutchess was 78 percent, compared to 69 percent for the 2016 presidential election.

Putnam County

Election officials said on Thursday (Nov. 19) they had only a few absentee ballots from Southeast left to tally. The turnout was 80 percent, compared to 71 percent for the 2016 election.

absentee count

Observers (at left) representing State Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, watch as election officials count absentee ballots at the Putnam County Board of Elections on Wednesday (Nov. 18). Harckham’s district includes eastern Putnam. (Photo by Ross Corsair)

With absentees, Biden cut into Trump’s lead by 4,465 votes (although the president still won with 54 percent); Maloney added 4,497 votes to his lead over Farley; and Smythe cut Serino’s lead by 1,547 votes.

Other races

Kenya Gadsden, a former member of the Beacon school board and candidate for Dutchess County clerk, won a tight race to keep her seat on the Fishkill Town Board against Republican challenger Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy led after in-person voting with 55 percent of the vote but Gadsden overtook him in the absentee count and won by 101 votes of about 12,000 cast. Gadsden, a Democrat, was appointed to the board in January to fill a vacancy.

Only two of the state’s six minor parties appear to have retained their ballot lines for the 2022 election. Before this year, parties needed to receive 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial race every four years to remain on the ballot, but the state Legislature changed that requirement to 130,000 or 2 percent of the votes (whichever is higher) every two years in the races for governor and president. Only the Working Families Party, whose presidential candidate was Biden, and the Conservative Party, which had Trump on its line, survived. The Libertarian, Green and Independence parties, which each ran their own candidates, did not receive enough votes, and the Serve America Movement (SAM) did not have a presidential candidate.

One thought on “Local Election Update

  1. Thanks for your coverage of local races. Every election seems to illuminate that New York State has not done enough to modernize its voting infrastructure, and 2020 was no exception.

    This year, our state’s slow counting of mail-in ballots was repeatedly cited by commentators seeking to sow mistrust in democracy. The slow count also leaves local candidates in limbo in close races, delaying the opening of district offices and other tasks needed to hit the ground running and begin serving the people.

    While there’s much to be done to bring New York to the standards of other states, one common-sense step has been suggested by state Sen. Michael Gianaris: require local election boards to begin counting absentee ballots on Election Day, instead of a week later. I hope Sen. Sue Serino, whose district includes the Highlands, can cross the aisle, support this bill and strengthen the machinery of democracy in New York.