Tuesday’s rainy weather didn’t deter Twin County voters from casting their Election Day ballots in record numbers — a trend in step with the surge of new registrations and absentee ballots, which officials said is unprecedented for a midterm race.
Midterm elections traditionally have low voter participation, Greene County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Marie Metzler said.
“The turnout has been high today,” Metzler said. “It is comparable to the presidential election.”ENTHUSIASM AT THE POLLS
The parking lot at Coxsackie Village Hall, 119 Mansion St., was packed 10:30 a.m. Tuesday with eager voters. By that time, 518 people had submitted their ballots.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Robert VanValkenburg, of Coxsackie. “It’s the busiest I have ever seen it.”
VanValkenburg, who is the Greene County highway superintendent, did not go to the polls to support a specific candidate, he said, adding he votes each election, but this year’s race brought a good slate of candidates.
“I think things are going good in the country,” VanValkenburg said. “The economy is pretty strong. We just want to keep it going good. I just overall think we’re doing good.”
Coxsackie resident Wynn Bennett came out to vote for Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe, of Astoria, Queens. Sharpe has some great ideas and is not the run-of-the-mill Republican or Democratic candidate Bennett is used to seeing, he said.
“Sharpe is a fresh face,” Bennett said. “First, I blew him off. But, I changed my mind after going to two seminars in Albany and up by Syracuse. He [Sharpe] comes right out and expresses his ideas — this is how it should be, this is what is wrong and this is how to fix it.”
Sharpe does not like the direction the state is going in, he said, adding Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro will bring more of the same.
“People are moving out of the state in droves,” Bennett said. “There is no work here. Every year, I have friends that are moving to the Carolinas for lower tax property, real estate, quality of life, for jobs.”
By 9 a.m. Tuesday, 130 people had voted at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, at 6 Sylvester St., Kinderhook, poll site workers said.
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, a Republican from Kinderhook, is fighting to keep his seat representing the state’s 19th Congressional District in Washington from Democratic challenger Antonio Delgado, of Rhinebeck; Independent candidate Diane Neal, of Hurley; and Green Party candidate Steven Greenfield, of New Paltz.
Saint Paul’s is Faso’s home poll site where he voted Tuesday morning.
Kinderhook voters typically show a high turnout of 80 percent, Faso said. About 4,755 Kinderhook residents voted for the Congressional seat in 2016, according to data from the Columbia County Board of Elections.
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.
The 19th Congressional District race has generated a lot of interest in this year’s election, Faso said.
“This is obviously a contentious race,” the Congressman added. “The millions of dollars spent and a lot of money is flowing in nationally, so that does tend to increase voter participation, and voter participation is good, so I am happy to see it.”
The state’s 19th Congressional District seat is a focus race for Democrats, who are trying to take control of the House of Representatives,
“I am guardedly optimistic we [Republicans] can maintain control [of the House of Representatives],” Faso said. “But regardless of what happens, if I am re-elected, I’m going to go back and do the bipartisan work that I’ve done. I do think in this polarized time, we do need to have people work across party lines.”
Husband-and-wife, John and Linda Graves, of Coxsackie, both came out to support Delgado for the 19th Congressional District seat.
“I think he’s very smart and he is trying very hard to undo some of the things the Republicans are talking about,” Linda said.
John applauded Tuesday’s high voter turnout. The village hall parking lot was full when he arrived, but voting took five to 10 minutes, at most, he said.
For John, it was time well spent.
“I think it’s great [the turnout],” he said. “I wish it was like this at every election. I just hope it’s our team that wins. I don’t remember this many cars here in the morning in the  presidential race. It is astounding, which is good.”
At St. Mary’s Academy, 301 Allen St., Hudson, 545 voters in the city’s 1st Ward had cast their ballots before noon Tuesday.
For some voters, Tuesday’s election was about sending a message to President Donald Trump and his administration.
“I always vote, but this one is special,” said Charlotte Zacker, of Hudson. “I want Delgado to win and just wanted to make sure I get my vote. It’s really more about what I hate about Faso and the Republicans lately. This vote seems very important.”
Brittany Gillis, of Hudson, said she voted for candidates from different parties. For her, voting is a family affair.
Gillis has brought her two young daughters to the polls with her every year since they were born.
“My two girls have been coming with me to vote every single time,” she said. “I want to teach them to pay attention to politics and that their vote counts and their voice counts.”
The polling site for residents in Claverack’s fifth voting district, at the Churchtown firehouse, 2219 county Route 27, opened almost an hour late because a staff member failed to show up to open the site, Columbia County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Jason Nastke said.
Besides the issue at the Churchtown firehouse, Columbia County did not have any major voting issues as of press time. Greene County did not report any major problems at poll sites by press time, Metzler said.BY THE NUMBERS
In 2016, 31,152 people voted in the general election in Columbia County, according to the county 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 Columbia County residents voted in the 19th Congressional District race. In Greene County, 15,357 residents voted in 2014.
Local voter turnout was high Tuesday, Nastke said, as well as the number of absentee ballots that came in from New York City addresses.
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, he said Monday.
As of Nov. 2, Greene County sent 168 absentee ballots to New York City addresses, 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.”
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.
Voters had until Monday to postmark and mail their absentee ballots in to the board of elections.
“As of [Monday], we have received back at least 50 more ballots than 2016,” he said. “And more will come.”
As of Monday morning, the Greene County Board of Elections had sent out 2,064 absentee ballots and received 1,400 ballots back.
Columbia County processed 3,309 new voter 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.