This week, absentee votes will be counted in multiple local races that affect Bay Ridge. This includes our State Senate and State Assembly races.
Our State Senate race, also known as SD22, is between Democratic incumbent Andrew Gounardes and Republican challenger Vito Bruno. A State Assembly race, AD46, which comprises much of southern Bay Ridge, is between Democratic incumbent Mathylde Frontus and Republican challenger Mark Szuszkiewicz.
Other races are unlikely to be affected by the outcome of the absentee counts, including our Federal congressional race between Max Rose and Nicole Malliotakis (NY11) and the State Assembly race in northern Bay Ridge between Democrat Brandon Patterson and Republican Mike Tannousis (AD64).
Here are some quick things you should know as the counting begins!
Is this a recount?
No. These are votes that haven’t been counted yet. This means they are new votes that were not included in the election-night results.
The law says that voters can mail in their votes as long as they are postmarked before Election Day. That means every vote that is being counted did get sent before Election Day.
Are Early Voting results being counted too?
No. Early Voting ballots were included in the election night results.
Why has it taken so long to count these absentee ballots?
There are a few reasons.
First, New York State has a law that says absentee ballots cannot be counted until after election day. This is also why places like Pennsylvania were called so late into the election, while other states had their results in much earlier.
Second, since ballots can be sent in the mail very close to election day, the Board of Elections will often wait a week or two for the snail-mail ballots to arrive. This is especially true for very close or contentious races. They don’t want to start counting until they know they’ve received as many late-arriving votes in the mail as they can. That way, it’s less likely that late-arriving votes will be an unexpected deciding factor in the race.
Is absentee ballot counting a new thing?
No. It’s how we’ve always counted absentee votes, including votes from overseas military staff or people with disabilities unable to vote in person.
However, absentee voting has never been this popular. Concern over COVID-19 was a valid reason to request an absentee ballot this year. This resulted in many more absentee ballots than usual.
Normally, if a candidate won by 500+ votes, it would be unlikely that there would be enough absentee ballots to sway the race. However, because there are tons of absentee ballots, election day results are less important than the final official count this year.
Are all absentee votes legitimate?
Yes and no. The process of counting these absentee ballots is what determines which votes are legitimate and can be counted in the final total!
Representatives from each campaign usually are present to watch the counting, and can raise objections that are then hashed out through election lawyers. These objections often relate to signatures being mismatched, or errors in how a ballot was filled out, among many others. You can learn more about why ballots might be invalidated in our “Voting In A Pandemic” podcast episode.
There is also neutral oversight by the Board of Elections that has already occurred, filtering out absentee ballots from people who later decided to vote in-person, etc. The City has a great article detailing this process.
Is the process itself legitimate?
Absolutely. This is a legally mandated and common part of how we certify elections. It’s not new and there are numerous safeguards and controls in place to ensure ballots are counted fairly and accurately.
How can a candidate who won on election night end up losing the election?
There is a reason the Board of Elections calls its results on election night an unofficial result. That’s because even on election night, not every vote has been counted. This usually means absentee votes. It also includes affidavit ballots and other emergency ballots.
I’ve seen data saying that there are x number of Democratic votes, or x number of Republican votes. How is this possible if the ballots haven’t been counted?
The Board of Elections tracks how many ballots have been distributed, and returned, based on a person’s registered party. They make that information available publicly.
That doesn’t mean the people returning those ballots actually voted for their registered party. However, it can be a good indicator of how many votes a candidate is likely to get overall. We’ve been updating these numbers in a separate post, if you want to check them out.
Is it really possible for the race to be decided by Absentee Ballots?
Absolutely. We’ve been tracking the overall number of absentee ballots in our earlier post describing why we haven’t yet called the election for either candidate. In the case of Gounardes and Frontus, absentee ballots will be a deciding factor.
In 2018, even before COVID, former State Senator Marty Golden refused to concede until enough absentee ballots were counted.
If the media calls the election, does that mean it’s over?
No, but when they do, it’s extremely unlikely that the result will change. That’s because most media outlets (including us) pay special attention to where remaining ballots may be coming from, how many are left, and in what direction they are likely to lean.
The media can get it wrong, however. But once it’s called by multiple sources, it’s very unlikely to change.
When all the absentee votes are counted, does that mean the process is over?
No. There may still be lawsuits and other outstanding issues that need to be resolved, and if the result is very close, there may be a manual recount.
Even if the results aren’t close, the election still hasn’t technically been certified. The deadline for actual certification is on December 7th, according to the Board of Elections calendar.
Observers and Objections
Can anyone observe the count?
No. Only people selected as representatives from each campaign are allowed to observe ballot counting. It is entirely up to each campaign to properly staff these positions.
Is it too late to volunteer as an observer?
Maybe not! Due to the number of absentee votes this year, each campaign is likely still in need of volunteers. Counting is performed seven days a week, including weekends. You can contact your preferred campaign for more information.
What happens when an observer objects to how a ballot is being counted?
There are almost always Election Lawyers for each campaign in the room. When an observer spots a problem or makes an objection that requires legal expertise, these lawyers usually will discuss and resolve the issue on the spot.
If one side doesn’t have observers present, does that invalidate the results?
No. The actual counting is done by neutral Board of Elections workers, who do much of the work validating each ballot.
Interpreting Results Like An Expert
What is an AD, and ED, and an SD?
An AD is an Assembly District. They indicate what area a single State Assemblyperson represents. Mathylde Frontus’s district is an example of an Assembly District
An AD can be quite large, and is broken down into many different EDs, also known as Election Districts. These are usually a few blocks in size.
An SD is also known as a Senate District. These indicate what areas are represented by your State Senator, such as Andrew Gounardes. They are often larger than an Assembly District, and contain many different EDs.
Do Assembly Districts and Senate Districts have unique EDs?
No. Interestingly, every electoral map in New York City is based off of the Assembly Districts and their component EDs. In official tables and result breakdowns, you’ll often see votes tabulated with a shorthand that combines the AD and ED together. For example, 64043 usually means “Assembly District 64, Election District 043.”
This means that the official ballot results for Andrew Gounardes, a state senator, will include results broken down by the six or so ADs that overlap his district, along with the specific EDs that overlap. This also applies for Federal Races such as Max Roses NY11.
As results come in, expect them to be broken down by the Assembly Districts. Mathylde’s race will come as one large chunk, while Andrew’s will likely be reported in smaller chunks as individual ADs finish counting.
Which ADs overlap Andrew Gounardes’s 22nd Senate District? What neighborhoods do they represent?
AD41 includes a sliver of Sheepshead Bay and a northern piece of Marine Park. AD45 covers Ocean Parkway, a small western piece of Sheepshead Bay, and all of Manhattan Beach. AD46 includes much of southern Bay Ridge and the southern and western portions of Dyker Heights. AD47 includes much of Bath Beach and parts of New Utrecht in Gravesend. AD48 includes a small portion of Ocean Parkway. AD49 includes most of northern and eastern Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. AD51 is a very small district comprising a few blocks at the extreme northern edge of Bay Ridge. AD59 includes most of Marine Park. AD64 includes the rest of northern Bay Ridge.
You can view a full map of the Senate District here.