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Signs of the times

An application for an absentee ballot for Nassau

An application for an absentee ballot for Nassau County on May 26. Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

Daily Point

Long Island’s absentee ballot requests by the numbers

Many Long Islanders — and in particular, Long Island Democrats — are jumping at the chance to request absentee ballots in the face of the pandemic, according to county election board data shared with The Point. 

Suffolk County logged nearly 75,000 absentee ballot requests as of Wednesday. Nassau County was right behind at nearly 74,000. 

How big an increase is that vs. typical absentee voting patterns? In 2016, just more than a week closer to the election, Nassau had logged some 21,000 requests. The total absentee run in that presidential year was 48,451, according to Democratic elections commissioner James P. Scheuerman. The county has already blown past that. 

In Suffolk, a real-time demonstration of the growing numbers was visible in the absentee ballot statistics sheets shared by Republican commissioner Nicholas LaLota. The paperwork included four pages with the numbers broken down in different ways: by town on page 1, by congressional district on page 2, etc. Each page had a slightly different total number of requests, off by a few ballots, which LaLota said was because in the short time it took for board of elections staff to run each report, the number of requests logged had gone up. 

He called it a “real-time minute-by-minute growing of numbers of absentees.”

The reports also show a significant gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans requesting absentee ballots. 

In both counties, in every town, city, State Assembly, State Senate, and congressional district specified in the reports, Democrats asked for more absentee ballots than Republicans. They more than doubled the requests by Republicans Islandwide. 

It’s a big gap given that the pandemic shouldn’t affect party members particularly differently and there is no data to explain it. Perhaps it’s a measure of Democratic enthusiasm, or GOP ticket-leader President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on absentee voting nationwide. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Gaughran, Kaplan sound off on Jericho transitional housing

After weeks of contentious rallies, press conferences, petitions and debate, and a day after a Nassau County Legislature hearing on the subject, there’s little consensus on the plan to build transitional housing for homeless families at the former Hampton Inn in Jericho. Everyone, it seems, has a firm position.

Everyone, that is, except State Sen. Jim Gaughran in whose district the hotel site is located. 

Gaughran told The Point Thursday that he was “waiting to get more information” on the project, which, he said, only came to his attention recently. 

“I’m going to do my due diligence,” said Gaughran, who emphasized that he’s been involved in the issue of homelessness as a former Huntington Town councilman and Suffolk County legislator. “I want to look at all the facts and details and discuss it with the county and community residents and advocates for the families.”

Gaughran refused to say whether he’d support the Jericho Family Support Center, the proposal that would bring 80 homeless families – mostly mothers and children – to the former Hampton Inn site, where there would be services like mental health care and day care, and where families could then be ready for permanent housing within six to nine months.

And he noted that even though the state has oversight over homeless shelters, he didn’t want to overstep the role of local government.

“I have to respect the sovereignty of the county, and the town and the villages,” Gaughran said.

While the hotel is in Gaughran’s district, the affected residents – and the Jericho school district – stretch into State Sen. Anna Kaplan’s district as well.

Kaplan told The Point in a statement that she’s disappointed with “the county’s poor handling of community outreach” and a “problematic lack of transparency in the process.” But she said she supports the proposal, calling it a “welcomed shift in how the county addresses this crisis affecting the most vulnerable among us.” 

“While there have been real mistakes made in this process, it should not take away from the merits of the plan which I believe will help struggling families and children in our community,” she said.

Gaughran and Kaplan both said they’ve gotten calls from constituents on the issue, but neither has a say in whether the project moves forward. That, for now, is in the hands of the Nassau County State Supreme Court, where the Town of Oyster Bay sued, saying the project violated local zoning laws.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Almost there...

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

 The day everything changed?

For many of us, the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 feel like the moment everything changed. Now, 19 years later, that day serves as a wall in time: There is what came before and what came after, separated by a communal trauma and a nation drawn together in a heroic response. 

And much did change.

The Point took a wondering look at the edition of Newsday delivered that morning, before the planes hit, and what was astonishing was how easily it could be today’s paper. Nearly every story, column and editorial was about an issue that still bedevils us, or public figures who are still central to America. The front page headline was about a suicide bombing in Israel by an Israeli Arab. It was flanked by a headline about a mother fighting the parole of her son’s killer and the very good news that Michael Jordan was likely returning to the NBA as a player.

The editorials were about:

  • Democratic voters seizing the opportunity to cast primary ballots in the race for Nassau County executive ... for two men who still seek your vote regularly, current Rep. Thomas Suozzi (Newsday endorsed him and he won) and current state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
  • Palestinian violence spoiling their chance at their own state
  • Farmer subsidies distributed in a wasteful manner thanks to a system that was (and still is!) a relic of the 1930s

Even the opinion columns would fit right in today, with topics including:

  • Venus and Serena Williams showing us how women, and all people, can be hyper-competitive while still being loving and kind
  • More Middle East feuding
  • A president (George W. Bush) bedeviled by rising unemployment and the resulting loss of health care for workers
  • The high-spending, high-taxing ways of Suffolk County leaders
  • A discussion on the United Nations focused on both reparations for the slave trade and the issue of “Zionism as racism”
  • The White House refusing to release presidential papers (Ronald Reagan’s) to which the people had a legal right

Reading the papers from that day, it’s both troubling to see how little we have solved, and comforting to remember how much we have always had … and survived. 

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Columns