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    League of Women Voters in Tompkins County delivers absentee ballots to those in quarantine

    Key Points

    • The League of Women Voters (LWV) in Tompkins County helped deliver absentee ballots to those who are quarantining due to COVID-19.
    • Tompkins County received a record number of absentee ballots this year compared to previous years.

    The League of Women Voters (LWV) in Tompkins County, a non-partisan organization, assisted the Tompkins County Board of Elections (BOE) by giving absentee ballots to those who are quarantining due to COVID-19 and can no longer vote in person.

    The LWV Tompkins County, a local branch of the national organization, empowers voters by bringing them the most up-to-date information available on national, state and local elections.

    Absentee ballots in Tompkins County

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Sept. 1, 2020 that allowed voters who are worried about coronavirus exposure to obtain an absentee ballot.

    BOE Democratic Commissioner Stephen Dewitt said that there has been a drastic increase in the number of people filling out absentee ballots this year compared to previous years. He said that in 2016 there were under 4,000 absentee ballots returned and that around 4,400 ballots were sent out. As of Oct. 30, 14,893 were sent out and almost two-thirds — 9,574 — have been returned.

    Due to the increase in absentee ballots this year, the BOE used a vendor, Phoenix Graphics in Rochester, to help distribute the first 12,000 absentee ballots. The remaining 2,893 have been sent out directly by the BOE, Dewitt said.

    A drop box for absentee ballots was located outside the BOE office.

    Voters in Tompkins County could apply for an absentee ballot until Nov 2. However, after Oct. 27, absentee ballots could no longer be requested online, so people had to physically go to the BOE to get a ballot.

    League of Women Voters’ role in absentee ballot distribution

    A ballot drop at the BOE office (Photo by Tessie Devlin/Ithaca Week)

    LWV Tompkins County Co-President Sally Grubb said 5,000 flyers were distributed throughout the county and that a lot of flyers are put in food packages at food pantries to explain how to get absentee ballots. She also said that the league sends out emails.

    Grubb said she and about half a dozen other League members started Oct. 30 helping to deliver absentee ballots to people who are quarantining. Grubb delivered four ballots that day.

    “This is the first time it’s happened and I hope it’s the last time,” she said. “I can’t believe…that we will have a pandemic next general election.”

    LWV members bring absentee ballots to those who are quarantining, wait for the ballot to be filled out, sign as the authorized person, and deliver the ballot to Tompkins County BOE. They took proper protection measures, such as wearing a mask, remaining at least six feet away from people and using hand sanitizer.

    When it was snowing on Friday morning, Grubb put the ballots in plastic bags to protect the ballot from getting soaked from the snow. She said it is time-consuming, but worth it.

    BOE Office front door (Photo by Tessie Devlin/Ithaca Week)

    “They’re staying at home quarantined, but they’re doing what they can to vote and I honor them for that. It makes it worth my while and my other colleagues doing this to make it possible for them to vote,” Grubb said.

    She said it is impossible to determine how many people they are helping in the county, but she thinks it is important to help the BOE and people who cannot vote in person because of coronavirus.

    Grubb explained that early votes will not be counted until 9 pm on election night in Tompkins County and absentee ballots will not be counted until November 10. The local election results will not be known before then unless there is a landslide.

    “We have to know that democracy is worth preserving and worth waiting for and we must just be patient, like we all have to be patient to wait to unwrap our Christmas presents,” Grubb said.

    A citizen early voting on Saturday, Oct. 31 (Photo by Tessie Devlin/ Ithaca Week)
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