Decision 2020

As NY Starts Counting Absentee Ballots, Winners May Finally Be Decided in Tight Races

As voters on Staten Island wait to know who will be representing them in Congress in January, a state senator is looking to speed up the process of counting absentee and mail-in ballots under a newly proposed bill which would allow the vote canvassing to begin much sooner

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A week after in-person polls closed, Board of Election have finally started tallying up the large number of mail-in ballots throughout New York City — all 700,000 of them, a total never seen before due to the COVID pandemic.

On Staten Island, that means voters there may finally know who will represent them in Congress come January.

A winner has yet to be declared in the hotly contested congressional race between Democrat Max Rose and Republican Nicole Malliotakis. On Tuesday, representatives for both candidates watched the counting begin, with each ballot carefully monitored to ensure they are valid.

"I feel actually as the days go by, it'll become more and more clear that it's mathematically impossible to catch up to me," Malliotakis said. The GOP candidate had a sizeable lead with in-person votes and declared victory in the race, but her opponent has yet to concede as he has said he wants all the votes counted first.

Malliotakis believes she will take over the 11th congressional district seat, which includes Staten Island and a part of Brooklyn, as she had a 37,000-vote margin with only about 31,000 votes left to count. The campaign for the incumbent Rose told NBC New York it is focused on ensuring every vote is counted.

"I'm sure there will be movement in the numbers, but I believe we'll still win by a significant margin," Malliotakis said, adding that there have already been several challenges to ballots.

"There were able to identify already a number of dead people that did cast their vote by absentee ballot, so we want to make sure that only those ballots that are lawfully submitted are the ones that are counted," she said.

A state senator is looking to speed up the painstakingly slow process of counting absentee and mail-in ballots under a new proposed bill, which would allow the vote canvassing to begin much sooner.

"We are the latest state in the country, in terms of counting out ballots," said State Sen. Michael Gianaris. "We don't need to do it that way, and what I'm proposing is that we allow the boards of elections to begin counting those ballots three hours before the polls close on Election Day, and that will allow us to announce those results much earlier."

Because the number of mailed ballots is small in a typical year, they usually do not tip a race either way. But this year was anything but typical, and Gianaris is hoping to garner enough support for the proposal to start the counting a week sooner in time for next year's elections — which would provide clarity in tighter state or local elections.

"We're very lucky we're not a swing state or else this would be an international scandal. We were upset that Pennsylvania took three or four days to go through its ballots and announce a winner," Gianaris said. "Right now, eight state senate elections that are still up in the air. Seven congressional elections, just in New York, that are up in the air."

Canvassing will continue in all five boroughs seven days a week. The Board of Elections has until Nov. 28 to certify the results.

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