The process of counting absentee ballots got underway Monday on Staten Island — in a test run of sorts.

What You Need To Know

  • BOE sorts ballots by district, invalidates some before it opens envelopes for tallying process

  • Several races with close in-person vote margins rely on absentee-ballot results

  • BOE and campaigns warn it may take weeks to know the winners of some races

  • Over 6,000 nursing home residents in New York have died from COVID-19

The borough had the lowest share of absentee ballots in the city.

The most heavily contested races are in the other four boroughs, where tallying is set to begin Wednesday.

Elections attorney Jerry Goldfeder said the Board of Elections begins the process by invalidating ballots for such offenses as failure to sign the envelope.

“And they will start opening up envelopes that they deem to be valid and take the ballots out of the envelopes," he said. "They’ll shuffle them up so that nobody knows who voted for whom. And they’ll put those ballots through the machine and the machine will count them. And this can take weeks in certain races where the margin is close.”

Goldfeder’s clients include Jessica González-Rojas, who leads Queens Assembly Member Michael DenDekker in in-person votes, and Rep. Eliot Engel, whose challenger Jamaal Bowman has declared victory.

In the race between Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Suraj Patel — separated by 650 in-person votes — there have been more absentee ballots returned than early and Primary Day votes cast.

Both campaigns, like others, say they'll have observers at BOE offices for the count.

Elections attorney Sarah Steiner’s clients include Michael Blake, who currently trails Ritchie Torres in a Bronx congressional race. She’s broadly concerned about ballots being invalidated for an issue that is not the fault of the voter.

“I think that it’s the postmarks and the fact that the post office generally does not put a postmark on the mail that has a permit," Steiner said.

Absentee ballots had to postmarked by Primary Day, June 23.

More than 384,000 primary absentee ballots have been returned to the BOE — about half the number mailed to voters who requested them.

The figure eclipses the number of paper ballots the BOE processed eight years ago when Hurricane Sandy left many general election voters using affidavit ballots, which also are counted after Election Day.

“Here, the scaling of it is just so huge," Steiner said. "I would not be surprised if there were New York City boards that were not very ready to start on Wednesday.”

The BOE has stressed it values accuracy over speed.

A spokeswoman said it was on track to begin counting in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx on Wednesday.


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