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Monday Tops Weekend For Early Voting

The Robert H. Jackson Center is a site for early voting. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Early voting in New York state is underway and will continue throughout the week.

Locally, the biggest surprise appears to be that Monday had higher turnout than either Saturday or Sunday. “It was a shock to me. I would have thought Saturday would be the biggest day by a long shot because it was the first day of early voting,” said Chautauqua County Republican Election Commissioner Brian Abram.

According to Abram, Saturday had 272 voters, Sunday had 236 and Monday had 335. He discussed the early voting Tuesday afternoon before polls closed that day.

He also said when he’s looked at other counties, Chautauqua County isn’t alone. He noted that there were multiple counties that had higher turnout Monday than either weekend days.

This is the third year of early voting. In 2019, about 4.5% of residents participated in early voting. Like this year, 2019 was mostly a local election. George Borrello was elected to take over the seat vacated by state Sen. Cathy Young. Jamestown, Dunkirk, Fredonia and Lakewood all elected mayors that year. This time around the biggest election appears to be the county executive seat. Incumbent PJ Wendel, a Republican, is being challenged by Democratic candidate Norm Green.

This year during the first three days 843 people cast their vote. Abram said if the trend continues, 2021 will have fewer early voters than two years ago. He attributes that to perhaps more people wanting to try out early voting in 2019, since that was its debut. It’s possible, he said, that early voting this year will pick up and could pass the total number of votes cast two years ago.

He knows the county won’t come close to 2020, which had a number of unique issues. Last year was a presidential year, which always brings out larger crowds. Also, it took place during the pandemic, before a vaccine was readily available, so more people may have sought early voting to avoid crowds.

In 2020, 14,279 people participated in early voting, which ended up being 18% of all ballots cast. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to compare that year to another year,” Abram said.

There are four early voting sites: the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk, the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood, the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown and the Board of Elections site in Mayville. The fairgrounds is the most popular, followed by the mall, the Jackson Center and finally the Board of Elections.

This year the Jackson Center was required to be added, due to a change in the state law that mandates an early voting location in a county’s most populated municipality. Abram said some residents who participate in early voting may prefer voting at the mall or elsewhere and didn’t want to visit the Jackson Center. They also may not be aware of the new location. “It’s still new. … We’re getting the word out,” he said.

Early voting continues in Chautauqua County through Sunday. Hours today through Friday are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s hours are noon to 5 p.m.

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