America is waking up this morning to one of the most uncertain dawns in the country’s 244-year history, and it is likely we won’t know much more by the end of this Election Day, due to massive numbers of absentee ballots, both here and nationally, that may take weeks to count.
Suffolk County had received 120,091 absentee ballots for today’s election as of Monday afternoon, and 122,135 county residents had participated in early voting, bringing the total number of pre-Election Day ballots received by the county Board of Elections to 242,226 — about 23.35 percent of the county’s 1,037,490 active voters.
The county will not begin counting absentee ballots until next Tuesday, Nov. 10, the deadline for the Board of Elections to receive absentee ballots, which must be postmarked by today. Absentee ballots may also be returned in person to any poll location or the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 700 Yaphank Avenue in Yaphank by 9 p.m. this evening.
The Suffolk County Board of Elections reported it has received requests for 209,207 absentee ballots for today’s election by the Oct. 27 deadline. As of Monday, 57.4 percent of those ballots had been returned. The county reported that registered Democrats had requested 98,093 absentee ballots, while registered Republicans had requested 49,446 absentee ballots. The remaining 27,448 ballot requests were from voters who weren’t registered with either major party.
Independence from party orthodoxy has lately been a hallmark of much of the county’s electorate. Suffolk voted twice to send former Democratic President Barack Obama to the White House, before pivoting in 2016 to support current Republican President Donald Trump.
In 2008, the county backed Mr. Obama over Republican Senator John McCain 52.6 percent to 46.6 percent. In 2012, the county backed Mr. Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney 51.3 percent to 47.6 percent. In 2016, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton didn’t fare as well in Suffolk as either of Mr. Obama’s Republican opponents, taking home just 44.9 percent of the Suffolk vote, while President Trump took 51.8 percent of the Suffolk vote.
Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin has held a lock on the First Congressional District, which includes all of the East End, Brookhaven Town and much of the Town of Smithtown, since he was first elected in 2014 with 54.3 percent of the vote over former Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop, who received 45.6 percent of the vote that year.
In 2016, Mr. Zeldin beat former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with 58.2 percent of the vote to 41.8 for Ms. Throne-Holst. In the ‘blue wave” Congressional election of 2018, Mr. Zeldin again proved victorious over East Hampton businessman Perry Gershon, taking home 51.5 percent of the vote to Mr. Gershon’s 47.4.
Mr. Zeldin, who is from Shirley, in Brookhaven Town, has not yet faced a fellow Brookhaven resident until this year — his opponents in all three of his victories were from the East End, which has a small fraction of the population of towns farther west.
Stony Brook chemist Nancy Goroff, this year’s Democratic candidate for Mr. Zeldin’s seat, banked on her turnout efforts in Brookhaven, the most populous town in Suffolk with nearly 500,000 residents, to pull out a primary win this spring. It’s a strategy she has employed again in the general election.
There have been some signs of shifting party demographics on the East End as well — most notably in Southold Town, a longtime GOP stronghold where the Southold Democrats reported last week that Southold voters registered with the Democratic Party now outnumber registered Republicans — by four voters, with 6,124 active Democratic registrations, compared with 6,120 active Republicans. As of the 2016 election, there were more than 1,600 more Republicans than Democrats registered in Southold.
“The Southold Democrats have been closely following these numbers since 2017, and knew this was coming. But it’s absolutely happened more quickly than we anticipated,” said Southold Democratic Committee Chair Kathryn Casey Quigley.
The massive flight east from the Democratic stronghold of New York City due to the pandemic could also play a role in changing the electorate here, as New Yorkers have been on a real estate buying spree, school enrollment has climbed, and more families have decided they would be safer here than in the city. We’re likely to know more about how this trend has affected voting here this evening and in the days ahead.
Stay tuned to our editor’s Twitter feed (@byoungeast) after 10 p.m. for any breaking election alerts we may have this evening — we will have an analysis of Suffolk’s in-person vote results regardless of whether any local races can be called tonight.
If you haven’t yet voted, here’s our coverage of issues on the ballot in today’s election. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at all 338 regular polling locations in Suffolk County.