New York’s First Election With Early Voting Nears Conclusion

Barry Klatzkin, left, explains how to vote to his twin sons, three-year-olds Milo, right, and Amir, at a polling site in New York, Nov. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A relatively quiet but still groundbreaking election season in New York reaches its conclusion Tuesday as voters across the state cast their ballots in county and municipal races.

With no federal or statewide contests on the ballot, turnout is expected to be low, but this election is serving as a rehearsal of sorts for next year’s blockbuster presidential contest.

It marks the first time New York has allowed early voting, and officials said roughly a quarter-million ballots were cast around the state between Oct. 26 and the conclusion of the early voting period Sunday.

Few problems were reported during the week the polls were open, and officials are hopeful the system will run equally smooth when turnout soars next year.

Polls were closed Monday but reopened Tuesday at 6 a.m. and remain open statewide through 9 p.m.

Perhaps the most interesting contest in the state is taking place in New York City, where a referendum is being held to decide whether to adopt a new type of voting system in some future elections.

Called ranked voting, or ranked choice voting, the system would let people rank up to five candidates in order of preference, rather than picking just one to support. If no candidate gets more than 50% of first-place votes, it would create an instant runoff in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and the votes of people who favored that candidate are transferred to their second choice. That process continues until one candidate gets over 50%.

Other places, including Maine and San Francisco, already use ranked choice voting systems, but New York City would be the most populous place yet to embrace it. If the referendum passes, it would be used only in primaries and special elections, starting in 2021.

Proponents of the ranked choice system say it favors candidates with the broadest appeal. Opponents say it can be confusing.

Elsewhere in the state, voters are electing county executives and comptrollers, including on Long Island, where Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, is running for reelection against the county’s Republican comptroller, John Kennedy.

In the southwesternmost corner of New York, voters are deciding the outcome of a special election to fill a state Senate seat left vacant by Republican Cathy Young, who resigned for a job at Cornell University this year. Recent college graduate Austin Morgan, a Democrat, is facing off against Republican Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello to fill the District 57 seat.

In the middle of the state, Democratic donor George Soros has pumped over $1 million into two district attorney races in Monroe County and Ulster County as part of his political action committee’s nationwide efforts to elect progressives and reform criminal justice.

Also on the ballot in New York City is the office of public advocate, now held by Jumaane Williams, a Democrat who won a special election earlier this year and is running for reelection. He faces Republican City Council member Joseph Borelli and Libertarian Devin Balkind.

Voters in Queens will choose a new district attorney to replace long-serving prosecutor Richard Brown, who died in May.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is the favorite for the job after squeaking out a Democratic primary win against Democratic Socialists of America candidate Tiffany Cabán. Her opponent in the general election is Joseph Murray, a retired police officer who is running as a Republican, although he is a registered Democrat.

The latest voting registration data shows continuing problems for the Republican Party in New York.

The number of active Republican voters has dropped by 18,000 since November 2016, while the number of active voters registered as Democrats has risen by 270,000, according to the latest state board of elections data. Nearly 6 million active voters are registered as Democrats in New York, compared with 2.6 million Republicans.

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