2020 Elections

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said he has long seen Suffolk as “a purple district,” despite Republican wins within the county.

This, he said, was made evident by the final polling results that were released at last after weeks of absentee vote counting. President Donald Trump (R) won Suffolk County by just a little over 200 ballots, a far cry from just four years ago when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton with 46,619 more votes in 2016.

Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chairman, said current polling numbers prove the area is more purple than people realize. Photo from Suffolk Democrats

Suffolk “is more of a get-even county in terms of both the registration numbers as well as the enthusiasm, so most races are competitive,” Schaffer said during a phone interview postelection. “And that was just proven by the results that came out.”

Still, Democrats suffered several defeats for both state offices and for congressional seats.  

The Republicans also flipped the 3rd state Senatorial District seat held by Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). Northport Democrat Michael Marcantonio lost the 12th District Assembly race against Republican Keith Brown by a little over 2,000 votes.

Yet there were some victories in there as well. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) held onto his seat against a strong challenge from current Town of Huntington board member Ed Smyth (R). Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a 28-year member of the Assembly, held out over the long weeks of absentee-vote counting for a 6,825-vote win over Republican Michael Ross.

Schaffer said the much greater turnout not just in Suffolk but nationwide also expressed people’s interest in candidates. He said though some candidates have yet to confirm they will be running again in 2022, people such as Laura Ahearn, who ran against Republican Anthony Palumbo for SD1, and Jackie Gordon, who lost her race for Congressional District 2 while winning Suffolk, have good shots if they continue their political careers. He added Gordon has an especially good shot if CD2 becomes redistricted to become exclusively Suffolk-based based on census results.

Though Biden has already been certified as the winner of the election, Trump supporters and the president himself continue to call the results fraudulent. Schaffer said such a thing is ludicrous.

“I mean, I’m the first guy to say, if you can show us widespread fraud, then I’m on board with making sure that it’s not the case,” he said. “But, again, it’s just been this flailing and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks at it.” 

Schaffer sees Democrats in Suffolk as a kind of coalition that is trying to support suburban values. Republicans, he said, have spent the past year painting their opposing party as such things like anti-police. As Republicans pushed the bail reform bill passed in the 2019 budget as a major part of their campaigns, Schaffer said Democrats in the city hurt their suburban or rural colleagues by not having discussions about it prior to its passing.

“The trick for us is to continue to push our agenda out here and make sure people understand that we’re not in lockstep with New York City Democrats,” he said. “The approach needs to be that we’re talking about what it means to the quality of life in the suburbs, and whether or not it’s something that people out here support, as opposed to what the party is advancing.”

He said that Long Island Democrats need to join up and form a kind of “suburban working group,” not as a rebuff to the party, but as a way of making their thoughts and voices heard.

“Just as the city representatives flex their muscles, the suburban representatives do the same. They need to all stick together,” he said.

At the heart of Suffolk Democrats’ woes is trying to create a coalition between the moderate and more progressive ends of the left. Some progressives have expressed their displeasure with the greater party over what they feel is their views being stifled.

Schaffer said just like any other part of the party, their views are accounted for, but what’s also required is compromise. He added that progressives need to stop demonizing people who don’t fully support their policy positions.

“They present their opinions, they can present their views, they can talk about legislation, but they also have to understand that politics is compromise,” he said. “Those that want to say all our views aren’t being listened to, so we’re going to just take our ball and go home, need to rethink that strategy.”

For 2021, Schaffer said there are multiple important local races, including a special election for Town of Brookhaven as well as Suffolk Legislature seats. 

Schaffer said the committee is going forward with Setauket community advocate Jonathan Kornreich as their nominee for Brookhaven Council District 1, as long as nothing changes in the time between now and election.

Otherwise, with races such as county Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) up for election this year, it will be about maintaining incumbent seats.

“We’re excited about our incumbents — we think they’ve done a good job locally,” he said. “We’re looking forward to put them out there again for reelection.”

Despite the loss of the presidential election, and with just 18 months on the job, Suffolk County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Garcia is instead looking at big local wins.

Suffolk Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia, center, said the party had big wins in Suffolk despite losses on the federal level. Photo from Suffolk Republicans

The party held onto longtime Republican state Senate seats previously held by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who’s retiring this year, and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who vacated his seat earlier in 2020. Despite a blue wave in 2018 that saw the GOP hold over the state Senate wane, this year Republican Alexis Weik, of Sayville, defeated state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), making Suffolk County a solid wall of red against a mostly blue Nassau County and New York City.

People “responded to our message of taking back New York State from one-party rule, and raised the voices of Long Island in Albany,” Garcia said in a phone interview a few days after the majority of absentee ballots were counted. All races in Suffolk have now been officially called.

Garcia came into the position in April 2019 from his previous post as chairman of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee. The Suffolk post was previously held by John Jay LaValle, who had been ardent in his support for President Donald Trump (R) in 2016.

The retirement of multiple high-level Republicans in Suffolk, including LaValle and Flanagan as well as U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY2), brought a new urgency to this election beyond the politicking of a presidential election year, even if 2020 wasn’t one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

Trump squeaked out a win in Suffolk County by just a little over 200 ballots, with 49.40% of the vote compared to Democrat Joe Biden’s 49.37%. This is compared to 2016 when Trump carried Suffolk by close to 47,000 votes. 

Still, Garcia praised the county’s steadfast support of Republicans. Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) defeated Democrat Laura Ahearn for LaValle’s seat, and St. James Republican Mario Mattera defeated Democrat Mike Siderakis to pick up where Flanagan left off. 

As for Congress,, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) held an over-36,000 vote lead against Democrat Nancy Goroff by the time all absentee votes were counted. Republican Andrew Garbarino, of Sayville, defeated Democrat Jackie Gordon for King’s seat, though more votes went blue on the Suffolk side of the district.

Garcia also cited a victory when voters rejected Suffolk County’s proposition 1, which would have increased the terms of legislators from two years to four, something he called “an incumbency protection program.”

Despite Biden’s win on the national stage having been upstaged by Trump’s continued unverified claims that the election was stolen in key states, the campaign has presented little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud — although a Nov. 18 Reuters/Ipsos poll reported nearly half of Republicans nationally say the election was stolen because of voter fraud. 

The Republican chairman said changes to this year’s election process due to the pandemic were as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) “weaponizing a pandemic for his political purposes,” and that the governor used COVID-19 as a way to “scare voters away from the polling places.”  Garcia blamed the governor for moving back the dates of primaries, though Republicans only hosted one primary this year, that being for the 2nd Congressional District held in June.

The chairman also brought up his share of claims of impropriety in the past election, though he did not cite any specific examples of widespread fraud. He said there was a lack of checking to confirm who people were when requesting an absentee ballot and cited the example of a Water Mill man who was indicted by District Attorney Tim Sini (D) for allegedly requesting two mail-in ballots for his deceased mother.

“I know that there are a number of other questionable applications that we hope are under investigation, because that’s what fair and transparent elections are all about,” he said.

Despite their wins, the Republicans still remain a minority in both houses of the state Legislature. Garcia said the Democrats who hold seats in the suburban parts of New York are going to need to “deal with choosing to vote for Long Island taxpayers, against their party and against the governor … or they’re going to join with our delegation to fight for more school aid, the repeal of the catch-and-release bail reform act.” 

As for the near future, the Suffolk County Republican head is looking forward to 2021. Early next year, the Town of Brookhaven will be holding a special election to replace Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who is leaving to become a state Supreme Court judge. Garcia said they have been doing interviews for candidates and will be announcing their pick as soon as the town supervisor announces a date for that vote.

On the Suffolk side, a large number of seats are coming up for vote once again. Democrats in the county Legislature hold a single-member majority against their GOP counterparts.

“We’re going to look to flip the Suffolk County Legislature into the government into the Republican column the first time since 2005,” Garcia said.

File photo by Jeff Bressler

In the Smithtown Fire District, one seat is available on the board of fire commissioners, and incumbent Padraig O’Brien will face challenger Michael Clarke for that seat.

Padraig O’Brien

O’Brien is a lifelong resident of Smithtown and local businessman who has operated Chemex, the pool and chemical supply store across from the bull statue, for more than 30 years. He joined the fire department in 1973 and is a member of Rescue Company 9. He has held a seat on the board of commissioners since he was first elected in 2000.

In a statement, he said during this tenure calls to the fire department have increased more than 40%, but “we are better equipped and further ready to handle these requests than ever before.” He also credits the skills he has learned as a businessman such as strong planning, organizational and budgeting skills for maintaining a “fiscally sound approach to district operations.” He said modernizing systems and equipment has led to increasing efficiency and cutting waste.

He added that while on the board he has been pleased with state and county grants the district has procured to alleviate the tax burden on residents as well as maintaining the budgets below the tax cap.

“If reelected, I will use this valuable experience to further advance the goals we have set out to achieve and continue to fight for our paramount objective of providing exceptional service to those we protect,” he said in the statement.

Clarke has been a member of the fire department for 29 years. Prior to joining in 1991, he was involved in the Commack ambulance service, which he joined at 14 years old, for seven years. When he was in his early 20s and lived in Bethpage for a short time, he was a volunteer there.

A lieutenant with the Old Brookville Police Department, this is Clarke’s first time running for fire commissioner. He said part of his work responsibilities is administration which involves implementing and keeping to budgets. With the police department covering six villages, he is accustomed to dealing with several local officials as well as different budgets and working within financial constraints. He also has gained grant-writing experience at his job, which he said is valuable for procuring funds.

Michael Clarke

“We can see what money and resources are out there,” he said, adding that any financial assistance takes the burden off the taxpayers.

He said with being active in various roles in the Smithtown Fire Department, including company officer and being part of purchasing equipment committees, he’s been involved in many big decision processes. Through his career and volunteer experiences, he has worked with EMS workers, and he said he believes he can bring a better representation of what needs to be implemented for EMS workers on the district side.

Overall, he said he wants to continue with getting the proper equipment the fire department needs, work within the budget and in turn help the taxpayers, as he’s familiar with local taxes after he and his wife, Kim, have raised two children in the area.

“We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.

The Smithtown Fire District will hold its commissioner election Tuesday, Dec. 8, between 4 and 9 p.m. at the Smithtown firehouse located at 100 Elm Ave.

Englebright/Palumbo/Mattera Claim Victory in Respective Races

Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

*This post has been updated to include updated information about other area races.

With the number of absentee ballots counted so far, the GOP commissioner of the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections told TBR News Media that U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) reelection over Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff is “mathematically certain.”

“I expect to certify the race in about a week — with the results showing Congressman Zeldin won by almost 50,000 votes,” BOE Commissioner Nick LaLota said in an email statement. The incumbent congressional representative had a lead of over 60,000 votes by the end of in-person vote counting Nov. 3. Absentee ballot counting began Nov. 16.

While Goroff and her election staff said on Election Day they had to wait for the results of in-person voting, Zeldin released a statement that night declaring victory. In it he also thanked Goroff for the race.

“As America enters its next chapter, I am confident we will defeat the coronavirus and continue growing our economy,” the incumbent said in that Nov. 3 statement. 

Zeldin’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for any kind of new statement based on the commissioner’s election call.

A representative from Goroff’s campaign said they are waiting for additional absentee ballots to be counted before putting out any kind of statement.

In other local races, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was confident that mail-in ballots would make a difference in the 2020 race for his seat in the 4th Assembly District, and he was right.

On Dec. 2, LaLota confirmed that Englebright was reelected and that official ballot counts would be available shortly.

The assemblyman said it was good to have the ballot count finished.

“This election was unique because fully one-third of the vote came in through mail ballots and was not included in the initial election night tally,” he said. “It was, however, worth waiting for.  The final count was a solid affirmation. I’m grateful that the voters gave me the opportunity to continue representing them in the Assembly. And there is much work to be done in the new year. Until then, please everyone, be safe this holiday season and we will come out of this stronger.”

In person voting showed Englebright behind Nov. 4 with 47.44% of the votes, compared to his challenger Republican Michael Ross who had 51.88% of the votes. At the time, there were nearly 18,000 absentee ballots that still needed to be counted in the district.

Ross did not release a statement by press time.

At the same time, victory was declared by current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who defeated Democratic opponent Laura Ahearn to take Senate District 1. The seat had been held by Republican Ken LaValle for over 40 years.

“As our new Senator, I will work hard every day to continue the legacy of retiring State Sen. Ken LaValle and build upon his strong record of protecting the environment, supporting our schools, and fighting for taxpayers,” Palumbo said in a statement. “Thank you for putting your trust in me. I am proud and truly grateful to have the opportunity to continue serving our Long Island communities in the New York State Legislature.”

In a statement, Ahearn congratulated Palumbo for his win and said she would “work with him for the betterment of our communities during these difficult times.”

“I am very proud of the work we all did together as we were just 2.7% points away from flipping this seat, by far the closest this race has been in decades,” Ahearn said in a statement. “For now, I look forward to spending the holiday season with my family, who have been through so much during this remarkable time to run for public office. And of course, there is still much work to be done as we continue to help those who need it most.

In Senate District 2, Mario Mattera succeeded Senator John Flanagan (R). Mattera beat out Democrat and former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset.

“Now that the counting is complete, we are ready to work together to bring the voice of all who live in our community to our state government and make sure that the needs of our families are met,” Mattera said in a statement. “The time has come to put Long Island first, and I look forward to getting to Albany to fight for our hardworking families.”

This story was amended to add a statement from Laura Ahearn.

by -
0 739
William Sussman attends pre-election training at the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Photo by Sussman

When one conjures the image of the average poll worker, it’s probably not the picture of Will Sussman.

Sussman, 21, an electrical engineering and computer science student at Yale University, stood shoulder to shoulder (so to speak, considering the pandemic) with people twice or three times his age at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Being at the forefront of the democratic process is a unique first-time experience for any young person, but in the age of COVID-19, it was also a way of protecting many of the usual workers who are particularly susceptible to the virus.

Will Sussman takes a selfie as he helps work the polls at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Photo by Sussman

On average, poll workers are more likely to be older and retired, according to an April report from the Pew Research Center. According to a study of the 2018 midterms, most poll workers were aged 61 to 70. Just 4% of that study were people aged 18 to 25. Data is the same for presidential election years as well as midterms. According to an Election Administration and Voting Survey from 2016, 24% of poll workers are aged 71 and older, while another 32% are 61 to 70. EAVS surveys also show a majority of board of elections have a difficult time finding volunteers to man polling locations. 

Sussman was one of a handful of young people who decided to volunteer at a Suffolk polling place this election. Knowing just how dangerous the virus was to older people, and being home from college earlier this year because of the pandemic, he said it became apparent there was need for volunteers, especially considering he and his immediate family had tested positive for the virus earlier this year, and after he and his folks recovered, he tested positive for COVID antibodies.

His decision was an important one considering issues election officials faced earlier this year in the primaries. Officials from the Suffolk County Board of Elections told the county Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting in September that 25% of poll workers did not show up for the June primary. When college started up again in the fall, and as Yale was inviting students back, Sussman had to get special permission from his college to return for the day specifically to work the polls.

“I was in the best position to relieve people who are at greater risk for COVID,” Sussman said. “I read a lot about national and international affairs, and I was sort of more aware than the average person that poll workers would be needed.”

Sussman took mandatory poll worker training during the summer, and though he said where he would end up wasn’t determined by where one lives, he still ended up working at the same place he had graduated from only three years earlier.

“It was sort of poetic in a sense,” he said. “The last time I was in that room, the last time I was there I told my graduating class to exercise the right to vote.”

The polling place was busy most of the entire day, having received around 3,500 people coming to vote. There were quieter moments, but the young man said he had a little bit of an easier time handling the new tablets that workers were using to check in voters.

Two other young Miller Place High School students also became involved in helping the public vote. This is despite both being too young to cast ballots themselves.

Miller Place seniors Zoe Bussewitz and Meghan Luby also worked the polls Nov. 3. Bussewitz said they had been participating in a charity run by college students when she learned about students in another state being allowed to volunteer despite not being old enough to vote. Contacting the Suffolk BOE, the pair learned they could do the same.

What followed was a lot of “on the job” training, working 17 hours total, a blur of excitement of explaining how to fill out ballots, collecting signatures and sanitizing polling booths.

“It was really good to get involved,” Bussewitz said. “It was like I was doing my part.”

Though the Miller Place senior doesn’t know if she will have time to volunteer again in two years time, as she’ll likely be in college, she said it will inform her about voting in the many elections still to come. 

With the sense of unease nationally surrounding the election, being with so many volunteers, many of whom with different political backgrounds, Bussewitz said it was something that showed how people can come together for the sake of democracy.

“Right now there’s a lot of division, but everybody there were very kind and open minded,” she said. “It was great to see that break from division and really have just a day to do your civic duty.”

Though even with the number of people they had there, Sussman said the place still felt slightly understaffed. Though while they didn’t have any real problems with most voters, there was one instance of a voter who refused to wear a mask inside the polling place. The policy was there could be no restrictions on anybody who was legally allowed to cast a ballot, but in order to protect people’s health, they had to wait for all current voters to leave the polling place, then after the person cast their vote everything needed to be sanitized.

With all the national attention being paid to the legitimacy of this year’s election, the young man said seeing the process firsthand just exemplified how wrong all the claims of voter fraud were. 

“Everything is packed and labeled, and it would take a lot of effort to mess with these ballots,” he said.

Stock photo

Despite Election Day being Nov. 3, local races have a week or more to settle on the final count.

Suffolk County Republican Board of Elections commissioner, Nick LaLota, said via email they hope counting will be finished before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, though there is no way to know when everything will be finalized.

Republican candidates took leads in every local state and congressional race based on in-person ballots as the BOE started its absentee ballot count Nov. 16. Election experts have repeatedly said on average more Democrats used absentee ballots than Republicans did, though races will largely depend on unaffiliated voters. 

With that said, it will still be hard going for many Democrats in a few of the most hotly contested races. The U.S. Congressional District 1 race between U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and his Democratic opponent Nancy Goroff still remains out, though Zeldin currently holds a 65,120-vote lead. There are still over 89,000 absentee ballots left in that race, but Goroff would need to reportedly take all non-GOP registered votes in order to gain the upper hand.

A similar challenge is there in the New York State Senate District 1 race for Democrat Laura Ahearn, who has a steep uphill climb against her challenger, current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Ahearn is down by 18,736 from in-person polling, and there are over 42,000 absentee ballots left to count, and she will need many votes outside the two main parties to gain the seat.

The race for State Senate District 2 between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Mike Siderakis is heavily favoring red, as there is a 35,109 difference in votes favoring Mattera with less than 43,000 votes to count. 

The State Assembly District 2 race between Democrat Laura Jens-Smith and Republican Jodi Giglio is likely to go in favor of the GOP. With a 14,355 difference and just under 17,000 absentee ballots to count, Giglio has all but cinched her new position. Jens-Smith has previously told TBR News Media she knows she has very little chance of victory.

Some elections are closer than others, such as State Assembly District 4. Many residents reported surprise in messages to TBR News Media at longtime Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket) deficit of votes compared to his Republican opponent Michael Ross of 1,966. That race currently has 17,909 absentee ballots left to count.

However, there are a few confirmed elections. State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), with his lead of 23,419 with in-person ballots, is so far ahead of his young Democratic opponent Dylan Rice even the over-17,000 absentee ballots could not make a dent in the District 8 race.

On Nov, 17, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) said his opponent George Santos called him to concede. In a statement, Santos credited grassroots supporters and donors for the close race.

“I am proud that we gained the support of every PBA and first responder organization that endorsed this cycle,” Santos said.

Santos said there may be more announcements in the near future regarding his next steps.

“I would like to congratulate Congressman Tom Suozzi,” Santos said. “We wish him well going forward for the benefit of our district and constituents.”

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) declared victory Nov. 18 against his Republican opponent Ed Smyth. This came after votes absentee votes already counted in both Nassau and Suffolk put him over the edge.

“I am humbled to be reelected by the residents of the 5th Senate District and I thank them for their support,” Gaughran said in a statement. “During my first term in office, I worked tirelessly on behalf of Long Islanders and I am proud to have delivered real results — from a permanent property tax cap to support for small businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I will keep fighting for my constituents, for Long Island, and for all of New York State and I thank the voters for giving me the opportunity to continue to serve them.”

Above, is a breakdown of where each race stands with in-person votes as at Nov. 18 plus the number of absentee ballots left as last reported on Nov. 16 (from the Suffolk County Board of Elections).

Current vote totals are as of the morning of Nov. 18

Congress

NY1

Lee Zeldin (R): 176,323 Votes – 61.31%

Nancy Goroff (D): 111,203 Votes – 38.67%

Absentee Ballots: 89,401

NY3

Tom Suozzi (D): 46,112 Votes – 46.65%

George Santos (R): 52,117 Votes – 52.72%

Absentee Ballots: 34,902

New York State Senate

SD1

Laura Ahearn (D): 55,557 Votes – 42.78%

Anthony Palumbo (R): 74,293 Votes – 57.20%

Absentee Ballots: 42,550

SD2

Mario Mattera (R): 79,762 Votes – 64.10%

Mike Siderakis (D): 44,653 Votes – 35.88%

Absentee Ballots: 42,781

SD5

Jim Gaughran (D): 27,132 Votes – 43.51%

Ed Smyth (R): 34,575 Votes – 55.44%

Absentee Ballots: 21,276

New York State Assembly

AD2

Jodi Giglio (R): 34,290 Votes – 62.39%

Laura Jens-Smith (D): 19,935 Votes – 36.27%

Absentee Ballots: 16,979

AD4

Michael Ross (R): 22,966 Votes – 51.88%

Steve Englebright (D): 21,000 Votes – 47.44%

Absentee Ballots: 17,909

AD8

Mike Fitzpatrick (R): 39,937 Votes – 70.73%

Dylan Rice (D): 16,518 Votes – 29.26%

Absentee Ballots: 17,227

AD10

Steve Stern (D): 24,141 Votes – 49.93%

Jamie Silvestri (R): 24,197 Votes – 50.05%

Absentee Ballots: 18,529

AD12

Keith Brown (R): 30,638 Votes – 57.20%

Michael Marcantonio (D): 22,908 Votes – 42.77%

Absentee Ballots: 15,906

Amongst record-breaking turnout for the 2020 election, there is still one lingering issue that Suffolk County needs to correct for the many elections in our future, namely the dearth of early voting locations in the county.

In the midst of a pandemic, providing an opportunity for locals to vote earlier than Election Day made more sense than ever before. It was about keeping the number of people to a minimum to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Accommodating those who didn’t want to vote amongst crowds because they felt they would be at a higher risk to catch the coronavirus should have been at the utmost of priorities.

In Suffolk, past years have seen one early voting site per town, and this year the number of locations was increased to 12. Critics had lobbied for more than a dozen sites in the county, preferably 21, but the calls were met with compromise.

Well, the results are in and the critics were right. The slight bump in polling places wasn’t enough. People found themselves in line at early polling locations for hours. Lines at locations like Brookhaven Town Hall or Nesconset Elementary School snaked through parking lots and twisted around residential streets. As ridiculous as it sounds, people had to bring chairs with them to vote.

According to New York State law, the boards of elections should consider various factors when choosing a site including population density, travel time, proximity to other sites and how close it is to public transportation routes.

In Brookhaven, voters could find locations in Farmingville and Mastic but nothing on the North Shore. Smithtown residents had one location in Nesconset and many, once they discovered they would have to wait hours in line, traveled to Brentwood to vote early. In the TBR News Media coverage area from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River along the North Shore of the Island — which can vary between 40 to 50 miles depending on what route a person takes — that Nesconset location was the only early voting polling place.

Of course, we realize one of the problems may be a lack of poll workers and volunteers. Hearing the concerns of many residents who are now shouting voter fraud and the like it’s ironic how more people aren’t willing to participate in one of the most important processes in America. Our suggestion to the Suffolk County Board of Elections: Make more of an effort in getting the word out that people are needed to help voters.

The long lines of people to cast an early vote proved that Suffolk residents wanted their voices to be heard. Those lines proved that the county and country need to rethink the early voting process.

Suffolk County needs to work out a funding stream that is dedicated to early polling places come Election Day, and the nation needs to have a serious conversation about standardized processes for mail-in ballots or early voting. At the same time, why not make Election Day a national holiday?

While the hope is that future election procedures won’t need to adhere to pandemic guidelines, offering a more flexible schedule enables people more than 15 hours on Election Day to have their say, no matter what their workday schedule or other responsibilities entail.

To have one day to vote may have worked in the early days of our country, but with the U.S. population increasing massively over the centuries, and people of color as well as women gaining the right to vote along the way, it’s time to expand to make sure every adult in America can vote no matter what their circumstances may be.

Proposition 2 has become mired in political wrangling with some environmentalists and Republicans saying they would sue if it passes.

Proposal 2, which would allow Suffolk County to tap into a sewer stabilization fund to combat the economic effect of the COVID-19 shutdown, was close to passing during the election this week.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The proposal, which environmental groups including the Long Island Pine Barrens Society indicated they would likely challenge in court, would allow the county to use sales tax revenue from a drinking water protection program. It would also changing an agreement to repay close to $30 million borrowed from the sewer stabilization fund, while using another $15 million from the fund.

During a call with reporters Wednesday, the day after Election Day Nov. 3, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the measure would provide financial support for first responders, emergency services workers, and fire and rescue workers.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for passing this common sense measure,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. The proposal will “protect taxpayers, first responders and essential workers during a pandemic.”

Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the proposal was about 30,000 votes ahead with about 170,000 absentee ballots still uncounted.

Trotta called the proposal an “affront to the taxpayer,” and that the money was “supposed to be put in a lockbox.” Trotta, as has become customary between the two electeds, also questioned Bellone’s management of the county’s finances before the pandemic.

Trotta alleged Bellone was using the clean water fund to pay for “unaffordable contracts.”

The Suffolk County legislator said that if the Pine Barrens Society didn’t file a lawsuit against the use of these funds to rebuild the county’s finances then he would find a wealthy benefactor for a lawsuit.

Separately, Bellone urged court and election reform during his call.

“We had this perverse situation where voters had to wait in line for hours at a time to exercise their fundamental right to vote, only to find when they were finally handed their ballot” that many court races had been “pre-decided,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged court reform and a process to professionalize the elections.

Amid an upswing in COVID-19 cases around the country, Suffolk County, which was once at the epicenter of the deadly virus, has been experiencing an increase in cases as well. Last week, the county averaged a 1.5 percent positive test rate, while the number of people hospitalized with the virus that has caused the pandemic has climbed to the 40’s. Bellone said the county hadn’t been below the one percent level since Oct. 21st.

“The fact that they are ticking up is a concern within the context of where we are with the cold weather, with winter approaching,” Bellone said. “These numbers are a concern. We remain focused on that, keeping people healthy, keeping these numbers down, and enabling an economic recovery to continue. We can not afford to slide back.”

Bellone said the county has experienced a few clusters of cases. One was at a Southampton polling site and the other was a gathering of people at Shoreham-Wading River schools, which led the high school to go to an all-remote learning model for several weeks.

At this point, Shoreham Wading River High School is closed for in person learning through Nov. 11.

“Even if proper precautions are taken, [people] can end up in a situation like this,” Bellone said, urging residents to remain vigilant about reducing the spread of the virus.

The line to vote at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School in Rocky Point was about 30 minutes, but other voters reported much longer lines the early morning of Nov. 3. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr, Rita J. Egan and Julianne Mosher

Capping off months of anticipation, the 2020 election came to a head Tuesday night, though New Yorkers will still need to wait weeks before they know the true outcomes of state and federal races.

As it stands, Republicans have taken an early lead based on unofficial counts of in-person polling numbers by the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Nick LaLota, Republican BOE commissioner, said absentee ballots will start to be tabulated Nov. 10 after the board has had the opportunity to remove the absentee ballots of those voters who also cast a ballot on a machine, and have bipartisan teams compare the signatures on the oath envelopes to the voters signatures on file.

There have been well over 100,000 absentee ballots received in Suffolk County for the three congressional districts alone, and there will likely be more incoming as ballots are received as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Election experts have also said those absentee ballots are more likely to favor Democrats.

In one of the most contested races for the NY1 Congressional seat, Lee Zeldin has already moved to declare victory. Zeldin is sitting at 61% of in-person votes while Goroff holds a little under 39%. The Zeldin campaign released a statement declaring victory at 11 p.m. Election Day.

“I am deeply honored and humbled that the families of Long Island have entrusted me to continue representing our great Congressional District,” Zeldin said in a statement.

Democratic contender Nancy Goroff’s campaign manager, Jacob Sarkozi, responded at 1:30 a.m. that, “With tens of thousands of ballots left to be opened, we owe it to voters that every single one be counted.”

There are currently 75,091 absentee ballots for CD1 uncounted as of Nov. 4.

Speaking to Goroff the evening of Nov. 3, before polls closed, she said the huge turnout in the district has been “amazing,” adding there has been a good deal of excitement about the coming results.

While in-person votes were still to be counted as of Election Day, with the thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted, she stressed it’s still too early to tell winners with any degree of certainty, but added the turnout is a good sign.

With an energized electorate not seen in many years, polling places across Long Island saw a huge rush early in the morning Nov. 3, with residents across the North Shore reporting hour or more wait times in chilling temperatures. Lines got progressively shorter over the day, and by 8:30 a.m. people were reporting between 20- to 40-minute lines.

The night of Nov. 3, both Suffolk County party committees held online livestream events, rather than the usual election parties held at Stereo Garden in Patchogue for the Republicans and IBEW Local 25 in Hauppauge for the Democrats. The Dems palled around in a short hour-long Zoom call before signing off. The Republicans spent the night taking calls from candidates and committee members, relishing the early polling numbers.

Other congressional races have similarly stalled at a Republican lead. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is currently sitting at 47% to Republican challenger George Santos at 53%.

Kim Devlin, a senior adviser to Suozzi’s campaign, said in a statement they believe Suozzi is guaranteed to win.

“It is clear that Tom will win reelection by a substantial margin,” Devlin said. “Democrats hold a 3-1 advantage in the nearly 90 thousand absentee votes yet to be counted and we expect Tom’s margin of victory to be over 20 thousand votes.”

For state Senate, the race between Democrat Laura Ahearn and current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) in District 1 is locked at 43% to 57%, respectively.

Palumbo said in a statement he is “really excited about our position today and [I] feel good about our likelihood of success,” adding he is honored to be close to representing the district occupied by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Ahearn said in a statement that “while the early vote and Election Day in-person vote was not as close as we had hoped,” with more 31,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, there is a need to be patient and ensure all ballots are counted. She also thanked her supporters, as well as her campaign staff, interns and volunteers “for their dedication and commitment.”

In SD2, Republican Mario Mattera holds a near-30 point lead over his Democratic opponent Mike Siderakis at 64%-36% Wednesday morning. Mattera said he was grateful for all the volunteers who assisted in the campaign.

“I’m so excited for my community,” he said. “I’m so excited for our families.”

Once in Albany, Mattera, who describes himself as “a middle-of-the-road guy,” said he will work to repeal the bail reform act and ensure funding for law enforcement. Continuing to educate the public about precautions to take during the pandemic and helping businesses to open up fully is also on the forefront of his mind. He added he will continue to work on improving the infrastructure in the district. Mattera worked with elected officials and community leaders on the revitalization of Lake Avenue in St. James. He said it’s important to secure a sewage treatment plant that will allow for growth in the area and at the same time will protect local waterways.

Siderakis did not respond to request for comment.

Republican Ed Smyth, who is currently a Town of Huntington councilman, was leading Wednesday morning in the race for state Senate in SD5 with more than 55% of the votes. Sitting state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D) at 43% is vying for his second term.

“I’m not ready to hang a mission-accomplished banner over my office,” Smyth said.

The councilman said he will be watching the results closely as he knows thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted, and from what he has heard, more Democrats than Republicans requested absentee ballots.

“There’s nothing normal about this election year,” he said.

Gaughran’s spokesperson Marissa Espinoza also said it was too early for anyone to declare victory.

“There are nearly 30,000 absentee votes, the majority of which appear to be from Democrats,” she said. “It is vital that every vote be counted. I’m confident that this full count will favor Senator Gaughran.”

For state Assembly, there are some tight and other not-so-tight races. Republican Jodi Giglio is standing at 62% to her Democratic opponent Laura Jens-Smith’s 36% in District 2.

Jens-Smith said during a phone interview Nov. 4 though there are still ballots to count, it’s likely her opponent has the ball. She said the day’s results show that Democrats need to focus on “rebuilding our base here to make sure that the issues we campaigned on are getting out to the voters better.”

She said she will continue to stay involved in the area, especially to make sure “we continue to have working and middle class here on Long Island.”

Giglio said she was holding on any declarations until all absentee votes are counted, but she thanked GOP leadership, her volunteers and her support from law enforcement and labor.

“Every vote means something to me and I am humbled by the confidence in me from the voters and the vote count thus far,” she said.

28-year incumbent Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is behind his Republican opponent Michael Ross by close to five points in Assembly District 4 at 47%-52%. There are well over 15,000 absentee ballots to be counted, as of Nov. 4.

Englebright said he is not too concerned at the current polling numbers, as because of the pandemic and so many people voting differently, “I think we’ll be OK … a very substantial number of people who voted absentee ballot — a majority are my vote.”

Ross said he remains cautiously optimistic.

I think that across the board on the Island, the middle class spoke loudly for the Democrats to hear that they’re tired of the Albany agenda, and they’re tired of being ignored and their voices not being heard,” he said.

The day’s vote disparity is most drastically seen in Assembly District 8, with incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) holding more than 70% of the vote compared to Democratic challenger Dylan Rice’s 29%.

Fitzpatrick said while “the dust still has to settle,” he feels good about where he’s at.

“It was just an unusual campaign,” he said. “I’m used to being out and about in front of people. We did a couple of events, but certainly not like past campaigns.”

Rice did not respond to a request for comment.

In the 12th Assembly District, Republican Keith Brown had more than 57% of the vote, while Democrat Michael Marcantonio had more than 42% of the votes Wednesday morning.

Brown said while he feels good about the lead but he’s not ready to claim victory yet.

“Every vote is important and has to be counted,” he said.

The candidate said his campaign was one based on character and his experience with getting things done, and he was humbled by the support he received from family, friends, the Republican, Conservative and Independent parties as well as law enforcement organizations.

Marcantonio said he was being patient with results and optimistic for him and other Democrats who are currently trailing.

“This is going to look like a very different race in two weeks when all these votes are counted,” he said.

The Democrat said as of Wednesday morning four polling places in the district were not yet counted, and based on conversations his campaign has had with the board of elections and based on other data they have received, there are a little under 13,000 absentee votes that still need to be counted. Marcantonio is down by 8,000 votes.

“The race is far from over,” he said.

The candidate said he knew the race would be a close one, and he congratulated Brown on the strong showing and appreciated the Republican for not declaring victory just yet.

Republican Jamie Silvestri and incumbent Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) are close to a tie at about 50% each in Assembly District 10, with over 15,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

“I’m very grateful for all the incredible people who stood by me and supported me throughout the year,” Silvestri said in a phone interview Nov. 4. “I’m optimistic for what’s ahead.”

Stern said that while the numbers are close, there are ballots to be counted over the next week. “It’s a very close race,” he said. “However, there still is a long way to go over the course of the next week in making sure every vote is counted, and when that process is complete I have every confidence that I will have the privilege to represent my community.”

METRO photo

Here is the rub, we’re in tense, dangerous times. We all feel it, a sense of unease blowing on the wind from who knows where. We don’t know what will come in the weeks following election day Nov. 3.

Absentee voting has been around for years, but the pandemic has caused a new swath of residents looking to vote remote. In New York state, boards of elections will not even begin to count absentee ballots until Nov. 6, and that process could take weeks to finish, especially if this year’s Democratic primary is anything to go by. Some experts have said we could not see the final results until December.

Due to this, sites like FiveThirtyEight, which often analyses election polling, said New York may initially skew Republican and then edge Democratic as more absentee ballots are counted.

Effectively, as we look at the preliminary results in the days after Tuesday, we have to remember that nothing is set in stone, especially this year.

It’s only fair that every person who voted in this year’s election is counted, no matter which way they may have voted. Anything else would be undemocratic, and nobody can judge another for deciding to stay home and cast a ballot by mail, especially if they or a person in their family is in the high-risk category for getting COVID-19.

Despite this, President Donald Trump (R) has continually called absentee votes into question, despite the likely fact that many of the people voting for him have cast absentee ballots, and that he himself has voted by mail, specifically by giving it to a third-party individual to return. He has even suggested legal action to mandate only the votes counted by Election Day are applied.

We’ve been trained to want our results election night, but no state has ever fully counted every ballot on the first Tuesday in November. Some states, like North Carolina, are counting absentee ballots that arrive as late as Nov. 12.

And lacking any bombshell reports of vote mismanagement, we have to trust the system. New York’s process double checks each absentee ballot to make sure the person also did not vote in person. Voter fraud remains rare, and multiple states use mail-in ballots as the primary way people can vote in local, state and federal elections.

And what should we expect in those days after? Are we really going to see violence? Will people really accept the outcome of this year’s election? That’s the real question, and as we write this editorial for an issue that comes out two days after the initial results, we cannot say what’s on the horizon.

We urge everyone to stay safe and stay sane. We’re all looking for someone to take the lead in asking for calm, but it seems we should be looking to those in education for a guiding light. Stony Brook University’s new President Maurie McInnis wrote: “While we wait for the results, we are bound to be anxious and tense. Practice patience, extend courtesy and be considerate. When results do come, given the variety of political affiliations that are part of our strength as a diverse community, some are bound to feel elation while others will be disappointed and distressed. I encourage you to reach for empathy. Reach for critical understanding. Reach for the profound combination of caring and intelligence.”

We know tensions will be high, we know the national news will be covering unrest in different parts of the country, but we want to believe our communities have the right mindset to move forward, and that we can stifle the most radical voices with a bulwark of civic mindedness and a sense of neighborly compassion.