More than two-thirds of all the absentee ballots cast so far in for Tuesday’s local races in Jefferson County were for Cape Vincent’s Republican primary, likely the sign of a higher than normal percentage of seasonal residents voting in the election.
The absentee ballots have yet to be counted, and they’ve yet to all trickle in. The Jefferson County Board of Elections has until Sept. 20 to receive postmarked ballots.
Most of the absentee ballots — 242, of 346 county-wide — are expected to be cast for Urban C. Hirschey, the anti-wind power incumbent town supervisor who was running against Harvey J. White, who holds a lease with a wind-power developer. Mr. Hirschey was leading Mr. White in unofficial Board of Elections figures, 277-99.
In 2009, only 96 Republicans chose to vote absentee in Cape Vincent’s November election, which also included a high-profile battle for the north country’s congressional seat. Anti-wind power voters this year launched a registration drive for seasonal voters, who are more likely to be wary of wind development and more likely to vote absentee. That prompted outcries from supporters of commercial wind power development, who claimed that it was an ethical gray area; voters who live most of the year in, say, Rochester, were registering to vote in Cape Vincent’s elections.
But nothing in state law requires that voters spend the majority of their time at their voting address. That’s why an effort at requiring voters to show driver’s licenses at the polls was rebuffed, and derided by elections officials and anti-wind power advocates. The rule, widely seen as a way of disenfranchising anti-wind power seasonal residents, did not stand. Elections officials said there were no problems at the polls in Cape Vincent.
The number of voters registered as Republicans also spiked in Cape Vincent. As of April 1, there were 738 Republicans in the town. Just five months later, there were 1,018. In New York, only registered members of a political party may vote in its primary.
And a majority of those Republicans came out to vote. Out of those 1,018 Republicans, 622 voted in person or via absentee ballot so far, for a 61 percent turnout, unofficial elections data show. That’s about the same rate of eligible voters that turned out for the 2008 presidential election, according to statistics from George Mason University.
That gives Cape Vincent the highest turnout percentage in the county. The 2009 general election between Mr. Hirschey and Thomas K. Rienbeck, and the race between Democrat William L. Owens and Conservative Douglas L. Hoffman for Congress, drew 66 percent of eligible voters in Cape Vincent.
Mr. Hirschey and Mr. White will face off once more in the Nov. 8 general election for town supervisor, because Mr. White has the Conservative Party line.
In Alexandria, where Dale D. Hunneyman beat F. Smapie Sutton and Thomas Gardner for town supervisor, 311 votes have been cast, out of 1,192 Republicans who were eligible to vote, for a 26 percent turnout.
In Henderson, where Charlotte R. Richmond beat Kelly A. Wiggins for town clerk, 308 out of 651 Republicans voted, for a 47 percent turnout.
In Orleans, where Kevin C. Rarick beat Peter R. Davis for town supervisor, 201 out of 830 Republicans voted, for a 24 percent turnout.