The Weekly Wonk: Absentee Voting in August Primary

Welcome to the #weeklywonk. This is my weekly blog about statistics, registration data, and election law on my website, dustinczarny.com. This is a rebrand of my #wonkywednesday and #sundaythoughts columns I have been writing since 2020. In merging these two side projects together I am hoping to be a little more regular in my production. I have also not tied myself to a particular day to release these columns, hoping to release them weekly on the weekend. This way I can have more time to gather the statistics and resources that I want to devote to these articles. This week I start my look back at the August 23rd Congressional and State Senate Primary with a breakdown of Absentee Voting.

 Absentee Voting has seen an increase in usage over the last few years as the pandemic made in-person voting problematic for segments of the voting population. In the June 2020 primary at the height of the pandemic we saw almost 70% of ballots cast via absentee. However, as vaccines have started to normalize left, we have seen a receding usage. The failure of the no-fault absentee constitutional amendment last year makes it likely that we will see pre-pandemic usage in the future. One major change is different this year. We no longer wait weeks to count absentees for weeks after Election Day opening them up to needless challenges. This is resulting in less ballots that are actually returned being ruled invalid.

For the August 2022 Primary we had congressional primaries countywide for Democrats and GOP and a conservative party primary for the #SD48. For the August 23, 2022, primary we issued 5,824 absentee ballots. 3,044 (50%) ballots were returned and successfully cast. 2755 (46%) were not returned by the voters. 222 (4%) were returned as undeliverable meaning the address on file was no longer correct. This usually happens when a permanent absentee voter moves without updating their address. Only 53 (1%) ballots were ruled invalid after being returned. Of the 3069 Returned ballots, 2133 (69%) were by Democratic voters, 916 30% were by GOP voters, and 20 (1%) by conservative voters.

In terms of raw absentees being sent out the August 23rd primary was one of the highest absentee counts since 2017 (we do not have data readily available before then for primary absentees). It was only eclipsed by the pandemic year of 2020. It should be noted the primaries for 2017, 2019, and 2021 were generally city-only primaries and behave differently then the county wide primaries in 2018, 2020, and 2022. What we see from the data is despite the waning of the pandemic, the absentee usage is showing signs of continuing to grow. Significantly both of 2022’s split primaries were consistently just over 9% of the votes cast where the 2018 pre pandemic primaries were around 6.5%. When the pandemic excuse lapses this year, we will see if that usage continues.

We also saw an increase in affidavit usage from the June primary with 241 voters using affidavits during Early Voting and Election Day. This is up from two hundred in the June Primary and correlates to the slightly higher turnout we saw in August. 169 Democrats filled out Affidavit ballots, 72 Republican voters. Of the returned affidavits Democrats only had thirty-three ballots rejected, the GOP 27 ballots were rejected. This meant that 75.1% of the affidavit ballots were ruled valid and counted with the final results.

Of the Affidavit ballots rejected the most common reason (47) were because the voter was not enrolled in the party in which they wished to cast a ballot. This is always the most common reason for rejection in a primary. Six affidavit voters had voted by absentee, and we received the absentee ballot, so their affidavit did not count, another six voted at the wrong polling place. Three affidavit voters were not registered to vote at all. We did have fifty-three absentee ballots that were returned but not counted. OF those the most common (25) were ballots returned with a postmark date later then election day. Another twenty-four ballots required a cure for a variety of reasons and did not return the cure paperwork. Another four ballots were ruled invalid during opening with marks or other issues on the ballot itself. No voters returned absentees after voting in person and no inspectors who were issued special ballots did not work ruling their ballot invalid.

That does it for this edition of the #weeklyWonk. Next week I will continue my look at the August 23rd Primary by diving into the Election Day Voting performance. We will continue looking back at the extra primary the rest of September before we resume the look at voter registrations for the General Election Senate Seats #50 & #48 as well as the towns of Manlius, Onondaga, and Pompey. Check back each week.

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