The Twin Counties are seeing unprecedented participation for today’s midterm election with large numbers of new registrations — especially from the block of second homeowners in the area who are originally from downstate.
Officials from the Columbia County and Greene County boards of elections say they have seen unprecedented numbers of voter registrations and absentee ballots for this year’s midterm election.
“This year is a midterm, which typically has lower turnout then a presidential year,” said Jason Nastke, the Republican commissioner with the Columbia County Board of Elections. “We are seeing overall more absentee ballots than the 2016 presidential election.”
Columbia County had 31,152 people vote in the 2016 general election, according to the board of elections. In Greene County, 22,325 residents voted in 2016, according to data from the Greene County Board of Elections.
In the 2014 midterm election, 21,303 voters in Columbia County voted in the race for congressman, while 15,357 Greene County voters voted in that same election.THE VOTERS SPEAK
Several people, chosen at random, voiced their support for the candidates they expect to vote for in today’s election.
Dwayne Doyle, of Chatham, believes the rise in registered voters has to do with more Democrats coming out to vote, he said. Doyle plans to vote for Antonio Delgado, the Democratic candidate for the 19th Congressional District, because change is needed.
“He’s not John Faso,” Doyle said of Delgado. “This guy’s [Faso] been in office forever.”
Faso was first elected to Congress in 2016, beating Democratic opponent Zephyr Teachout with just more than 50 percent of the vote. Before serving in Congress, he served as a state assemblyman from 1987 to 2002.
Angelo Novak, of Hudson, said Faso has his vote, citing Delgado’s past as a hip hop artist.
“I don’t like rap music... I would never vote for a Democrat,” Novak said. “If my father was alive and he was running as a Democrat, I wouldn’t vote for him. If my wife was running as a Democrat, I wouldn’t vote for her, either. I hate them because of things like what they did to [Supreme Court Justice] Brett Kavanaugh. I hate them because of what they’re doing to this country.”
Novak, 68, has voted in every election since he was about 18, he said.
“It’s important for everybody to vote for your right for this country,” he added. “That’s your right to vote and that’s what you’re in this country for.”
Jennifer Stewart, of Hudson, has seen residents in her neighborhood excited for Tuesday’s elections, she said.
Stewart, a Democrat, isn’t biased in regards to party lines, but is not a fan of President Donald Trump — a reason why she’s voting for Delgado, she said.
“Delgado is one step in getting out Trump,” Stewart said.
The choice of candidates is vast, which makes it difficult for George Thomas, of Hudson, to choose who to vote for, he said, adding Delgado will most likely implement policies that help to cement his legacy.
“I think Delgado will probably do something good,” Thomas said.
The rise of people coming out to vote this year is due to Trump’s policies and behavior, Thomas said, adding he tends to lean more to the left.
Jack Szarapka, of Catskill, is concerned fearmongering is responsible for the increased voter turnout.
“It depends on who’s coming out,” Szarapka said. “If you use fear tactics, it brings out those people who are willing to believe what this idiot [Trump] says.”
Szarapka is voting for Delgado because Faso is a fan of Trump and a lot of misinformation surrounds the Republican candidate, Szarapka said.
“The [political] ads are full of lies and misinformation,” he said.
Phil Hogue, of Chatham, filled out his absentee ballot in Hudson for Delgado on Monday because he shuttles between Columbia County and Brooklyn, he said, adding the process was easy.
Hogue voted against Faso because the incumbent congressman is more concerned about corporations than the people especially on health insurance, Hogue said.
“He’s not for anything but employer-provided health care,” Hogue said.
Democrat Aidan O’Connor and incumbent Republican Chris Tague are facing off for the second time for the 102nd Assembly District seat. Tague was elected to the Assembly in April in a special election.
Shauna Linden, of East Durham, plans to vote for O’Connor, who has represented the town of Durham on the Greene County Legislature since 2016.
“I like him — he’s a nice guy,” Linden said.
Linden is not sure who she plans to vote for in the state governor’s race, incumbent Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Republican Marc Molinaro, but isn’t voting for Cuomo, she said, because he’s not in the area enough.
“I think he spends too much of his time in the city [New York],” Linden said.
Delgado is the choice for Linden because he will bring new ideas to Washington, she said.
“New people might bring in new things,” she added.AN INCREASE IN ABSENTEES
As of Monday, the Columbia County Board of Elections had mailed out 4,243 absentee ballots and received 3,175 back, according to the Columbia County Board of Elections.
In 2016, Columbia County voters returned 3,130 absentee ballots, Nastke said.
“As of [Monday], we have received back at least 50 more ballots than 2016,” he said. “And more will come.”
Voters had until Monday to postmark and mail their absentee ballots in to the board of elections.
As of Monday morning, the Greene County Board of Elections had sent out 2,064 absentee ballots and received 1,400 ballots back, excluding Monday’s mail.
“This is a lot of ballots for a midterm election,” said Marie Metzler, the Democratic commissioner for the Greene County Board of Elections. “Absolutely.”
Board of elections officials also saw large numbers of people registering or reregistering to vote in the area.
Columbia County processed 3,309 registrations this year and Greene County processed 1,957 registrations. As of April 1, Columbia County had a total 44,168 voters enrolled and Greene County had 31,942 voters enrolled, according to the state Board of Elections.2ND-HOMEOWNER REGISTRATION ON THE RISE
Many residents have participated in the election process this year, said Keith Kanaga, chairman of Columbia County Democratic Committee.
“People have gotten energized,” Kanaga said.
Kanaga cited the contentious race for the 19th Congressional District as a major reason for the increased participation in the election.
This year, Faso, a Republican from Kinderhook, is fighting to keep his seat representing the 19th District in Washington from Democratic challenger Delgado, of Rhinebeck, as well as Independent candidate Diane Neal and Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield.
“This is definitely the marquee race for the area,” Kanaga said. “This race has definitely captured the attention of local voters.”
Throughout the race, Republican leaders have accused Delgado of “carpetbagging” to the district, or moving to the district simply to win the congressional seat. Part of those arguments include the heavy participation of New York City residents in the 19th Congressional District race.
Greene County Republican Committee Chairman Brent Bogardus is particularly frustrated by people who have second homes in the district who have registered to vote in the area, he said, which is legal under state law.
As of Nov. 2, Greene County sent 168 absentee ballots to New York City addresses, said Bogardus said, who is the Republican commissioner for the Greene County Board of Elections.
“We’ve had a lot of people reregistering out of New York City in Greene County,” Bogardus said during a campaign event for Faso on Nov. 2. “We have the Delgado campaign bussing in people from New York City to do their campaigning. I think it’s a travesty that New York City is trying to dictate what happens here in upstate New York.”
The number of absentee ballots sent to New York City addresses from Columbia County is in the thousands, Nastke said.
“People who live here, part-time or full-time, who raised families here or employ people here are entitled to vote here,” Kanaga said. “They realize their vote can make a real impact up here.”
This year, Kanaga said he helped a woman who lived in the area part-time for 40 years, between the city and Columbia County, register to vote in the county for the first time.
“I would suspect that if [these second homeowners’] votes are needed downstate, they will reregister their vote downstate for another election cycle,” Columbia County Republican Committee Chairman Greg Fingar said. “They have that flexibility having multiple homes to register and vote where they feel their vote is needed to support their candidate or their political party. People who have lived here full-time don’t have that luxury.”