The Weekly Wonk: Alternative Voting in 2022

Welcome back to the #WeeklyWonk.  Each weekend I release an article on a subject relating to elections in Onondaga County and New York State.  Often these articles will have detailed stats to consume but sometimes they will be a recap of an important issue or election law.  This week is part 1 of my lookback at the 2022 General Election in Onondaga County.  I used to break down each election in four parts but since the 2022 General Election did not get certified until December 21, 2022, I am a little behind.  So, for the 2022 General I am breaking my lookbacks into two parts:  Part 1 Alternative Voting Methods (Early, Absentee & Affidavit voting) and Part 2 Election Day and Overall Turnout.  This week I will do Part 1:  Alternative Voting Methods (Early, Absentee & Affidavit voting).

In the 2022 General Election we saw 170,958 voters.  Of the four voting methods Election Day remained the most popular, with 125,793 voters or 74%.  Early Voting had 31,694 voters or 18%.  There were 11,796 absentee voters or 7%.  Additionally, 1675 voters or 1% cast their ballot by Affidavit ballot.   The voting breakdown by party for Absentee and Early voting continues to skew to the Democratic party.  Democrats make up 38% of the General Election populace but was 47% of the Early Vote and 51% of the Absentee vote.  However, this is not a case of the GOP underperforming.  The GOP made up 27% of the General Election populace and were 26% of the Early Vote and 26% of the Absentee.  The drop off in usage is among non-enrolled voters who make up 28% of the voting population but only 22% of the Early Vote and 19% of the absentee. 

We now have four full years of data for Early Voting.  This mirrors our 4-year Election cycle we have in New York and Onondaga County.  2019 was a County Executive Year, 2020 a Presidential election, 2021 a City of Syracuse Mayoral year, and 2022 a mid-term Governor election.  In terms of overall turnout Presidential is always the highest turnout and in 2020 EV was the highest in raw vote and percentage of overall turnout.  2022 being a midterm was second in raw totals and percentage of overall turnout as expected.  However, 2021 was a substantially lower turnout than 2019 yet Early Voting was a higher raw and percentage of the overall turnout.  Now we have a full four-year cycle we can track the next four years of Early voting to similar years.

This year in Onondaga County we had 10 Early voting sites for the General Election.  The usual suspects Dewitt Town Hall (23%) Clay Town Hall (20%) and Camillus Town Hall (15%) led the turnout.  These have started to become the top tier of Early Voting site.  In the next tier we have 3 new Sites, Lysander Municipal (9%), North Syracuse Community Center (8%) OCC Mulroy Hall (7%) joining Armond Magnarelli (7%).  The bottom tier of Lafayette Fire station (6%) Syracuse Community Connections (3%) is joined by newcomer Beauchamp Library (2%).  What expanding to ten sites allowed us to do is to lessen the impacts to our top sites.  We were able to spread out the usage to other EV sites and reduce the share of voters that went to Dewitt, Clay, and Camillus.

Unlike Early Voting we have decent data on Absentee ballots going back to 2009.  2022 saw the highest non-presidential year in terms of absentee ballots sent (14585) and returned (11796).  In fact, the absentee requested in 2022 outnumbered the 2012 Presidential election.  This made up 6.9% of the overall turnout which is the second highest percentage.  It is obvious that covid Concerns is what is driving absentee ballot usage.  We saw a pretty solid usage of 4% in low turnout years and 6% in high turnout years like 2012, 2016, & 2018.  The year that absentees dropped to the lowest usage was 2019 at 3.52% with the introduction of Early Voting.  However, the pandemic saw massive usage of 24.96% in 2020.  2021 saw the largest percentage (6.38%) for a nonfederal year.  The question is whether this will revert to pre-pandemic levels as the pandemic excuse ends this next year or will we continue to see an increase in people using the available excuses to take advantage of this method going forward.

The last alternative form of voting is Affidavit balloting.  1675 voters successfully cast ballots via affidavit ballots in 2022 while another 219 attempted to cast affidavits but were ultimately ruled invalid.  This was the highest number of valid affidavits outside of a presidential election.  The 88.44% valid rate in 2022 is second only to the 91.96% in 2021.  We have had an increased emphasis in our training sessions on helping voters cast valid affidavits and our rising acceptance rate is reflective of that.  The adoption of Electronic Poll Books County wide is not only leading to more valid affidavits but also less affidavits overall.  The Poll Books can help inspectors send voters to the right polling place or determine whether they need a court order.

Finally, I wanted to look at how the voting methods in terms of percentage of overall vote has changed overall through the years.  New York, up until 2019, was a primary Election Day in Person state.  Election Day made up 92%-96% of the vote every year.  Tin 2022 it was only 7.58% of the vote.  This has been what advocates like me have theorized when Early Voting and more expansive absentee regulations were adopted.  Over time we will see more and more New Yorkers use these methods.  Obviously 2020 was an exception due to the raging VODI crisis, but if we look at the other years, we see a growing increase in alternative voting.  In 2019 11.39% of the electorate chose either EV or absentee, it grew to 49.04% during the 2020 election, in 2021 16.69% chose absentee or EV, and in 2022 25.44%.  Throwing out 2020 we see continued increase in alternative voting.  If this pattern holds, we could see 2020 become more the norm in just a few years rather than the outlier.

That is, it for this week’s #WeeklyWonk.  Next week I will finish up my look back at the 2022 General Election with looking at Election Day voting and statistics on overall turnout.  Tune in each week to learn a little more about elections in Onondaga County.  Remember to subscribe to dustinczarny.com for content and election news updates.

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