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The absentee wave

An election staffer removes an absentee ballot from

An election staffer removes an absentee ballot from the envelope to help count ballots in a recent primary. Officials received a record-breaking number of absentee ballot requests in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

Daily Point

Absentee flurry

Monday was the last day for voters to get their absentee ballot requests to election board offices. It’s a meaningful date because though the numbers can tick up a bit — voters, for example, can still apply for an absentee by doing so in person — there is now a pretty good idea of what the absentee landscape will be.

It’s a big field. Nassau County logged 37,572 absentee requests, and Suffolk charted over 30,000, in numbers sent to The Point after the Monday deadline.

That’s record-breaking on both fronts. Nassau Democratic elections commissioner Jim Scheuerman says there have been more absentee requests this year than any other off-year. And the totals in Suffolk are well above those from 2019, 2017, and 2015. The highest of those three was 22,952 in 2017, thousands below this year to date.

It would seem that pandemic-related voting behavior changes are still lingering, as are the partisan divergences in mail-in voting we saw during the presidential election. Both counties saw double the number of requests from Democrats as opposed to Republicans, and every district and town or city listed in election board stats saw more Democratic requests than ones from GOP voters — with one exception, Nassau’s LD12. The conservative-leaning district runs from Massapequa to South Farmingdale and is currently represented in the county legislature by Republican James Kennedy, whose father-in-law, the late Peter Schmitt, was the Nassau legislature‘s presiding officer.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Who pays

A key piece of the political debate over congestion pricing — the plan to charge tolls on vehicle entry to Manhattan’s central business district to help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — is the size of the tolls. Predictably, the people liable to complain about the tolls being too high did so about preliminary figures released at an MTA hearing in September, including a potential high of $35 for peak period travelers without E-ZPass.

Though these are all draft numbers being used for modeling, the highest potential toll an E-ZPass driver would face in that schema is $23, a big discount compared to the burden for those without the device.

But how many Long Island drivers are E-ZPass-less and thus would be on deck to pay the higher cost?

Not many, according to a Point analysis.

Nassau and Suffolk counties are home to at least 1,654,053 E-ZPass tags. Those are the totals from the three major tolling entities for the area: the MTA, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the state Thruway Authority.

Compare that with the 2,356,198 total Long Island vehicle registrations, according to a state Department of Motor Vehicles database. This suggests there are more than seven E-ZPass tags on Long Island for every 10 registered vehicles.

It’s likely that the percentage of Long Island commuters who would qualify for a potential E-ZPass toll discount is even higher: The vehicle registration data includes lots of vehicles which are unlikely to be used for daily Manhattan commuting.

The MTA predicts that lots of regular commuters already have and will use E-ZPass. Traffic processed through MTA bridges and tunnels is 95% through E-ZPass and 5% via tolls by mail.

The agency’s analysis of travel patterns forecasts 22,694 Long Islanders driving into the city’s central business district each day. Going by the 95%-to-5% breakdown, that suggests just 1,135 tolls being paid by mail.

It’s also possible that more drivers will opt for electronic toll collection, or even the train, if having an E-ZPass ends up meaning a big discount.

"Certainly, the advent of Central Business District Tolling may encourage some Long Islanders to switch to transit or to switch to E-ZPass even if they continue to drive, and if that’s the case obviously these numbers will change," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan wrote in an email to The Point.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Unbelievable

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Puzzle Point

In the news

Welcome to this week’s news quiz, based on events that took place this week. As usual, provide the answer for each clue, one letter per blank. The first letter of each answer, taken in order, spells out one way to perform a civic duty, beginning Saturday. Answers will appear in Monday’s edition of The Point.

_ _ _ _ _ _ ­_ Energy company that asked to delay completion of its South Shore wind farm until 2026.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 14 fishermen were given citations for trespassing after driving their trucks onto a beach in this East End community.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ The old Swezey’s furniture store building in this downtown will be razed for creation of a town square.

_ _ _ _ Ride-share company whose first safety report documented more than 4,000 cases of sexual assault from 2017 to 2019.

_ _ Mononym adopted by a famous rapper in a legal name change.

_ _ _ _ _ Automaker that announced it is again going public after a two-decade hiatus, the same week it recalled another 195,000 U.S. vehicles for faulty air bags.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ State sued by the ACLU, which says a law restricting discussions of race and sex in classrooms is unconstitutional.

_ _ _ The win total for the New York Giants and New York Jets six weeks into the NFL season.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Upstate mayoral candidate who extended "grace" to state Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs after he used former KKK leader David Duke in an analogy about endorsing her candidacy.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ Employees of this studio/streaming service staged a walkout to protest anti-transgender comments by comedian Dave Chappelle.

_ _ _ _ _ Long Island state park where an abandoned Coast Guard station is being removed to make conditions safer for surfers, fishers and off-road vehicles.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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