WHAT’S YOUR PLAN for voting? Nope, not “who” you’re voting for. The question is “what,” as in: What vehicle will you take at what time of day to travel directly to what address to hand over what kind of ballot to what type of official in what is the most important election in our lifetime?
Please don’t say you’ll think about it. You won’t. It’s an invitation to procrastinate: Oh, gee, I feel terrible but I just… I mean couldn’t… actually, I didn’t … well, y’know ….
Already have a plan? Good. Tell somebody about it. Maybe you can be voter buddies. Promise yourself something really good once you’ve voted.
There are three different ways to vote this year in New York State. You get to choose. In past years most voters chose the traditional method of showing up at their assigned polling place on Election Day, November 3 this year. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Please, don’t forget to wear your mask.
You’ll stand in line, sign in, take your paper ballot to a cardboard carrel and make your choices. Then feed your ballot to the counting machine, which sucks it in and You’re Done! Did your plan include how you’ll get home?
But Election Day voting may not attract as many people as usual this year. The reason is Covid-19. The thought of voters crowded in a confined polling site, which can happen in a presidential election, raises fears of spreading the virus.
The way to avoid that threat is to vote by absentee ballot, an option available to every registered voter in the state. You must first request an absentee ballot from the Columbia County Board of Elections soon. Once you receive your ballot and mark your choices you have to make sure it reaches the board. You can send it by mail or take it in person to the Columbia County Board of Elections, 401 State Street, Hudson, NY 12534. That way it must arrive by November 3. If you plan to mail it, check with the Board of Elections for the latest mailing advice: 518-828-3115.
President Trump, now back on the campaign trail, continues to misinform the public about the danger of absentee ballots. He has no evidence proving “voter fraud.” But there are credible studies that say Democrats are more likely to vote by absentee ballot than Republicans. The president’s misleading statements and his efforts to hobble the Postal Service undermine public confidence in absentee voting. It’s a tactic to help his campaign without regard to the damage he’s doing to our right to vote.
There’s also a third way to vote in this election, one that will make it harder for the President to disrupt: early voting. Early voting here began last year. It had a rough debut in this county. But it went smoothly elsewhere in the state; other states have used it successfully for years.
Starting Saturday, October 24 and running through Sunday, November 1, registered voters from any community in the county can vote at the county office building, 401 State Street, Hudson. The hours vary, but the polling place opens most mornings at 9 a.m. (at noon on October 26 and 28).
It’s a long way to Hudson and back for voters living near the Massachusetts border. And nobody knows how many voters will take advantage of early voting in Hudson. Last year there were 3 early voting sites. Early voters might need to build a little flexibility into their plans.
Why vote early? Start with the potential weaknesses of absentee ballots. Those ballots are counted last, often a week or more after the polls have closed. Some are challenged and sometimes disqualified for technical flaws. Most important, absentee ballots do not show up in the election night totals. But early voting results are immediately added to the election night results.
Some observers expect Mr. Trump will declare himself the winner if the Election Day results suggest that he’s ahead nationwide, regardless of the number of absentee ballots that remain to be counted. A strong election night showing by Mr. Biden might avert a false claim of victory.
So make your plans now. Count on the possibility of delays or changes. Wear a mask. Vote.