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Essex County residents have multiple options to vote in the general election

Election Day sign in front of the North Elba Town Hall, Lake Placid, in November 2017 (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — There are three ways to vote in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3: with an absentee ballot, in person early, and in person on Election Day.

Yet Essex County Board of Elections commissioners — and their counterparts across the state — were recently given a curveball with regard to absentee ballots when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Thursday, Aug. 20 and then issued a related executive order on Monday, Aug. 24 redefining the rules for those ballots. That made the situation “fluid,” as the county’s Republican Election Commissioner Allison McGahay called it Wednesday, Aug. 26. The rules keep changing, and more details would be made available once they are set, she said.

Even the county’s Democratic Election Commissioner Sue Montgomery Corey was having trouble trying to figure it all out.

“I’m still going through that, trying to understand it,” Montgomery Corey said Tuesday, Aug. 25.

In the meantime, there are plenty of details that are known, and there is one piece of advice both McGahay and Montgomery Corey have for voters when it comes to absentee ballots.

“I recommend get them in early,” Montgomery Corey said, adding that people can file an application for an absentee ballot right now. “Once you get your ballot, vote it and get it back in. Don’t wait until the last minute. Give the post office an opportunity to get it through the system.”

Voter registration

People can still register to vote for the general election. The deadline is Friday, Oct. 9. That’s the last day to have a postmark for mail registration, and it must be received by the board of elections by Oct. 14. And Oct. 9 is the last day people can register to vote in person at the board of elections office in Elizabethtown.

Those who are honorably discharged from the military or have become a naturalized citizen since Oct. 10 may register in person at the board of elections until Oct. 24.

Changes of address for the general election must be processed by Oct. 14.

Absentee voting

In New York, voters need an excuse to vote by absentee ballot. On Thursday, Aug. 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation allowing voters to request absentee ballots for the general election due to risk of COVID-19 illness to themselves or others. People can check the “temporary illness or physical disability” box on the absentee ballot application. Usually voters can request absentee ballots if they fall into one of several categories, including absence from one’s county on Election Day.

The three-part legislation includes new measures allowing absentee ballot applications to be submitted to the Board of Elections immediately, expanding the necessary protections to allow a voter to get an absentee ballot due to risk or fear of illness including COVID-19 and ensuring all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by the Board of Elections without a postmark on the day after the Election will be counted. Ballots with a postmark demonstrating that they were mailed on or before Election Day will be counted if received by Nov. 10.

Monday’s executive order requires county boards of elections to take concrete steps to inform voters of upcoming deadlines, be prepared for upcoming elections and help ensure absentee ballots can be used in all elections.

“This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history. It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it’s fair and right and accurate,” Cuomo said in a statement on Monday. “I’m issuing today’s executive order because we want boards of elections to count votes efficiently and we want them to get it right, but we want it done in a timely manner. We don’t want to hear after-the-fact excuses.”

The executive order requires county boards of elections to take the following actions:

¯ Send a mailing outlining all deadlines for voters by Tuesday, Sept. 8.

¯ Send staffing plans and needs to the New York State Board of Elections by Sept. 20 so BOE can assist in ensuring adequate coverage.

¯ Adopt a uniform clarified envelope for absentee ballots and require counties to use it.

¯ Count votes faster: require all objections to be made by the county board in real time, make sure that boards are ready to count votes and reconcile affidavit and absentee ballots by 48 hours after elections.

Asked if she expects an increase in absentee ballots this year, Montgomery Corey said, “We’re seeing a bump in the mail that we get every day from voters requesting absentee ballots. That I expect to continue right straight through. And I’m hearing that from other commissioners around the state, so I don’t think it’s unique to Essex County.”

Early voting

Early voting for the general election in Essex County will take place for nine days, between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1. There is only one place to vote early in person: the Essex County Public Safety Building, 702 Stowersville Road, Lewis. Voters casting a ballot during early voting will not be eligible to vote on Election Day. Below are the times for early voting.

¯ Oct. 24 and 25– 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

¯ Oct. 26 — noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Oct. 27 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Oct. 28 — noon to 8 p.m.

¯ Oct. 29 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Oct. 30 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

¯ Oct. 31 and Nov. 1– 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Polling stations

People may also vote the old-fashioned way: at the polls between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. The polling stations for the Olympic Region are listed below.

¯ North Elba: Districts 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6, North Elba Town Hall, 2693 Main St., Lake Placid; Districts 2 and 7, North Elba Town House, 193 River St., Saranac Lake

¯ Jay: Districts 1 and 2, town office, 11 School Lane, AuSable Forks

¯ Keene: Districts 1 and 2, fire hall, 15 Market St., Keene Valley

¯ Wilmington: Community Center, 7 Community Circle, Wilmington

The polling stations will be practicing COVID precautions, including social distancing and requiring that all voters wear face masks, according to McGahay.

For questions, call the Essex County Board of Elections at 518-873-3474 or visit online at www.co.essex.ny.us/wp/board-of-elections/ or call the New York State Board of Elections at 518-474-1953 or visit online at www.elections.ny.gov.

(Adirondack Daily Enterprise Staff Writer Aaron Cerbone contributed to this report.)