New York: What to expect on election night
Ever-blue New York has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans and has turned less friendly for Republicans over the past decade, thanks in part to upstate population loss and a decrease in New Yorkers identifying as Republicans. Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election decisively in the state, and Democrats control the governor’s seat and enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.
New York’s top race this November features Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul running to become the state’s first elected female governor against Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island. Former lieutenant governor Hochul took office last year following the resignation of her predecessor former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned to avoid a likely impeachment trial. Hochul’s maintained a strong lead in polling this year, though Zeldin hopes his anti-crime messaging will help him narrow the gap and oust her.
Hochul has focused on stressing her supporting for abortion rights and acting on climate change, and criticized Zeldin’s support of Trump and his objection to certifying 2020 election results. Zeldin has vowed to appoint an anti-abortion state health commissioner and has criticized millions of dollars spent to help abortion providers amid an expected surge in out-of-state patients.
Republicans control eight out of New York’s 27 previous congressional districts going into the 2022 election, with New York set to lose one of those seats. Democrats failed to pass new federal and legislative political maps that would have cemented solid liberal majorities statewide. An upstate judge ended up ordering new sets of maps drawn by an independent court master, whose maps gave Democrats a smaller edge.
Roughly a third of New York’s House races are viewed as competitive, with Republicans in play in races on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley. In one of the most closely watched races, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the five-term Democrat who was supposed to be leading his party’s attempt to hold on to Congress, is fighting for survival in a district in the Hudson River Valley. One closely watched race in upstate New York is in the Syracuse area, where Republican Rep. John Katko is leaving after four terms. That race pits Republican and U.S. Navy veteran Brandon Williams against Democrat Francis Conole, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and current U.S. Naval Reserve captain.
Democrats over the past decade have amassed supermajorities in the state House and state Senate, after years of Republican control of the state Senate. Democrats are fighting to keep their supermajorities in swing suburban districts, particularly on Long Island.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close at 9 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET).
HOW NEW YORK VOTES
New York has expanded absentee voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic to allow voters to choose to vote by mail over fear of spreading the virus at the polls. A deluge of absentee ballots in 2020 led to some lengthy delays in vote-counting. Lawmakers passed a law to allow counties to start counting absentee ballots before Election Day in hopes of avoiding such delays. Republicans sued asking courts to rule that law unconstitutional, and Democrats are fighting that lawsuit in court. The suspension of that law could delay race calls in the most competitive races.
New York voters defeated a ballot referendum in 2021 that would have changed the state constitution to allowed for no-excuse absentee voting. The state constitution requires absentee voters to be absent from their home county, ill, or physically disabled.
More than 2.5 million of 13.4 million registered New York voters requested absentee ballots in 2020 – five times as many as in 2016. Things happen quickly after the polls close. Because ballots have been flowing into country clerk offices for weeks — and are counted as they arrive — results from a huge chunk of the total vote are released within 90 minutes of polls closing at 7 p.m. local time.
Roughly two-thirds of voters in populous New York City, home to roughly 8.5 million residents, are Democrats. Republicans, meanwhile, are 30% of registered voters outside of New York City and enjoy the voter registration edge in western and northern New York counties. Republicans are also competitive on Long Island: About 30% of Nassau County voters are Republicans compared to 40% who are Democrats, while 31% of Suffolk County voters are Republicans compared to 34% who are Democrats.
New York hasn’t elected a statewide Republican elected official since former Gov. George Pataki, who served as governor from 1995 to 2006. For Zeldin to overtake Hochul, he’ll have to limit his loss margins in New York City and try to win over independent voters throughout the rest of the state. Independent voters outnumber Republicans in New York.
AP will tabulate and declare winners in 189 contested elections in New York, including four statewide races and 26 U.S. House races. In the 2020 general election, AP first reported results at 9:28 p.m. ET and 90% of precincts at 12:28 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 4. AP reported 100% or results on Thursday, Nov. 12, nine days after election day. The timing of first reports may change in 2022, however, depending on the fate of a legal challenge to new election rules that would allow the processing, counting and tabulating of mail ballots prior to election close.
New York has a mandatory recount provision that kicks in if the margin of victory is 20 votes or less, is less than 0.5% or, in a contest where over 1 million ballots are cast, is less than 5,000 votes. The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?
A: A new law passed in 2021 allows the Board of Elections to begin counting mail ballots prior to Election Day, though it cannot begin tabulating results until an hour prior to the poll close on election day. Previously, absentee ballots could not be counted until seven days after election night. Mail ballots represented 21% of the 2020 vote in New York.
In October 2022, however, a New York state court found the new rule to be unconstitutional. The state has filed an emergency appeal, and a decision is expected soon. If the lower court decision is upheld, New York will return to the 2020 rules, meaning absentees cannot be tabulated until Nov. 15.
New York lost one U.S. house seat in congressional redistricting. The New York house and state senate have also been the subject of redistricting. Population losses upstate and gains downstate may impact the balance of power in congressional district and state senate races. Further re-districting of the state assembly has been ordered for 2024.
Q: WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?
A: As of Feb. 21, 2022, there were 12,982,819 registered voters in New York, including 6.47 million registered Democrats and 2.85 million registered Republicans. In 2018, advance ballots made up only 249,000 (4%) of 6.2 million votes cast. 2020 saw a seismic shift towards early voting, with advance ballots making up 4.4 million (50%) of 8.69 million votes case.
Requests for absentee ballots must be made by Oct. 24. Mail ballots must be returned in person by Nov. 8; those being sent by mail must be postmarked by Nov. 8, and received by Nov. 15.
Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
A: For the general election, the timing of the count will depend largely on the results of a legal challenge to the law allowing counting of absentee ballots prior to the poll close. In past elections, absentees could not be tabulated until seven days after the election, causing significant delays in many race calls. The new law allows votes to be counted prior to election day, and tabulated one hour prior to poll close. If the law is upheld, we expect the first report from New York City to be received as early as 9:05 p.m. ET. We expect results from the rest of the state may start to trickle in about 20 minutes later. It is likely that these early vote totals will reflect advance and mail ballots.
Q: WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS WITH EARLY RETURNS?
A: The challenge to the new election rules allowing counting and tabulating of mail ballots will have a major impact on early returns. If the new rule is upheld, expect the first votes to be a report of advance and mail ballots. If not, the mail ballots will be held for seven days after election night. As with other recent races, the use of mail ballots has shown a partisan divide, with Democrats far more likely to use mail ballots than Republicans. This means early results may be skewed to one party or the other depending on the types of votes reported.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?
A: New York law provides for mandatory recounts if the margin of victory is 20 votes or less, is less than 0.5% or, in a contest where over 1 million ballots are cast, is less than 5,000 votes. This would occur after the state’s statutory recanvass.
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