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Nassau begins absentee ballots count that could determine some races

Ballots are sorted at the Nassau County Board

Ballots are sorted at the Nassau County Board of Elections on Nov. 6 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY – Nassau County began counting 152,118 absentee ballots on Thursday in a tally that could change the leads of several races.

Democratic Commissioner James Scheuerman of the Nassau County Board of Elections said the counting began Thursday morning and is expected to take several days. The count will be added to the 578,178 votes cast on machines during early voting and on Nov. 3, the traditional Election Day.

Suffolk County plans to begin counting its 166,377 absentee ballots on Monday.

Neither county is certain when the days of counting will end. The results of specific races are expected to be announced when those counts are final, but the timing is among the issues to be decided through negotiation between Democratic and Republican commissioners in each county.

Under state laws adopted this year, voters could choose to cast absentee ballots because of concern of contracting COVID-19 at crowded polling places. The law expanded the legal reasons for a voter to be allowed to cast an absentee ballot beyond illness or being out of the county on Election Day. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers cast absentee ballots this fall.

The absentee ballot counts could be pivotal in deciding several races, including the 3rd Congressional District contest and five State Senate races that will determine whether the Democratic majority grows or shrinks.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican challenger George Santos led Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi by 4,171 votes on Nov. 3. But there are 52,984 absentee ballots to be counted in that district, 27,158 of them cast by Democrats compared with 10,579 by Republicans.

Among the Senate races that could be determined by the count of absentee ballots is the 38th State Senate District in Westchester and Rockland counties. Republican William J. Weber Jr. led Democrat Elijah Reichlin-Melnick by 3,149 votes on the night of Nov. 3. But there are 31,828 absentee ballots to be counted -- 18,415 cast by Democrats and 5,074 cast by Republicans.

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