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UPDATE: Absentee ballot load makes major races too close to call

Julie Sherwood
Wayne Post

Congressional candidate Chris Jacobs declared victory in Tuesday night's special election for the 27th District, while state Assembly candidate Jeff Gallahan leads following Tuesday's Republican primary.

But, due to the overwhelming number of absentee ballots in this year's vote, results aren't going to be known until at least next week, as absentee ballots can continue trickling in to county election boards through June 30. (They had to be postmarked by Tuesday.) That means up to 1.7 million ballots won’t be opened until July 1 at the earliest. And even then, it will take time to crosscheck voter rolls and other counties’ records to ensure nobody voted twice even before officials get the chance to count up the votes.

Still, Jacobs declared victory in the special election to fill the 27th District congressional seat and the Republican primary for the same district — which includes a sizable portion of Western New York, including the western half of Ontario County and its population centers of Canandaigua, Farmington and Victor. Democrat Nate McMurray did not concede the special election for the seat, left vacant by the resignation of former Rep. Chris Collins, to fill out that term. McMurray’s campaign said there were 95,000 absentee ballot requests.

In a victory statement, Jacobs said: “We did it, it has been a long, challenging and ever-changing election, nevertheless the people of Western New York made their voices heard overwhelmingly for strong, conservative leadership! With the commanding lead I have amassed: I am confident in declaring victory in both the Special and Primary elections. Now I am looking forward to getting to Congress and getting right to work fighting alongside our President for the people of Western New York. I would like to thank all the volunteers, supporters, party leaders, and elected officials who have worked so hard to make this happen, and I would like to thank President Trump for his early and consistent support throughout this entire election, I am deeply grateful."

McMurray, in a statement, said: “With thousands of ballots left unopened across the 27th Congressional District, millionaire Chris Jacobs declared a premature victory. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic number of absentee and mail-in ballots still need to be counted. Absentee counts in most counties will not start until July 1st, and likely won’t be completed for at least two weeks."

“How can you declare victory before the ballots are counted?” McMurray said on Tuesday night. “There are more ballots still out there, uncounted, than people that voted in-person today. As we have always said, we will fight for every single vote. Chris always wanted to be crowned. The coronation will have to wait. They had to bring the whole Trump family into this to help drag him across the finish line. He can peacock. We will talk in two weeks.”

In the Republican primary for the same seat, Jacobs had the lead over Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato.

In the GOP primary in the 131st Assembly District, frontrunner Jeff Gallahan took the lead in the four-way race. The district covers Ontario County and a portion of Seneca County. Gallahan, who is Manchester town supervisor, received nearly 45% of the vote in his home county of Ontario; and 40% in Seneca County.

Gallahan said in a statement: “Thanks to my amazing wife of 41 years, Lynn, my family, friends, campaign volunteers and all of my supporters! Tonight’s victory sent a loud and clear message to Governor Cuomo and the radical progressives, UPSTATE MATTERS. I look forward to the counting of the remaining absentee ballots so we can move forward to victory in November.”

Candidate Cindy Wade said Wednesday she is not giving up. Wade posted Wednesday on social media: “Good Morning all! I want to thank you ALL for your support and encouraging words! We are down some 500 votes today with approximately 3500 absentees to be counted. The gap is large but we are still holding hope! Again... Many thanks to everyone. I am so humbled by all the support, love and kind words. I thank you all so Very Much from the bottom of my heart!!!”

“Whether I win or not, it’s been a great learning experience, a great journey,” Wade said Wednesday. “I have met a lot of great people and I feel positive about the whole experience.”

Regardless of the outcome, Wade will be on the November ballot on the SAM (Serve America Movement) party line. She said she will decide whether to actively campaign after learning the final results of the primary.

Also running in the 131st primary were Jeff Shipley and Ann Marie Heizmann.

The spread of COVID-19 forced New York into a primary like no other, with more people appearing to cast their ballot by absentee rather than showing up to the polls. Early results Tuesday night suggested more people cast their ballots by mail than in person.

That is causing a major logistical challenge for county election boards, which will be tasked with counting up to 1.7 million absentee ballots— more than 10 times the amount of the last presidential primary year in 2016.

It all means some key races may not be decided for more than a week. This much we know: Joe Biden won the New York Democratic presidential primary Tuesday.

Includes reporting by Jon Campbell New York State Team, USA TODAY Network

Chris Jacobs