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Steuben Co. has record turnout for presidential primary

Neal Simon
nsimon@gatehousemedia.com
FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Darby, Pa.

Steuben County Democrats overwhelmingly backed Joe Biden in Tuesday’s New York Democratic presidential primary — or at least those who voted in person did.

The Steuben County Board of Elections has received more than 3,000 absentee ballots for the primary. Officials expect to begin counting those votes on June 30.

Former vice president Biden, whose statewide primary victory was called by major news outlets shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday, picked up 64.16 percent of the in-person vote in Steuben County on Tuesday.

With all 53 Steuben County precincts reporting, Biden had 598 votes, well ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, who had 202 votes or 21.67 percent.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts picked up 43 votes or 4.61 percent.

The vote counting is not nearly over, however.

The Steuben County Board of Elections mailed 3,885 absentee ballots to eligible voters, with 3,008 returned as of the close of business on Wednesday. The mailed in ballots must be postmarked by June 23 — the day of the primary — to be counted. Valid absentee ballots are still trickling in.

“It’s a record-breaker for us as far as a primary,” said Kelly Penziul, the Steuben County Board of Elections Democratic chairman. “For a presidential primary, we’ve never gotten this many. We always get some from people that are going out of town or, you know, have to work or whatever, but because we ended up sending out the applications out to all eligible voters, we really didn’t know what to expect at first. You’ve got to believe they’re going to take advantage of that.

“A lot of people don’t vote in the primaries. A lot of people don’t understand the primaries to begin with. We try to educate the voters and stuff, but some of them just don’t get it. I think this gave them an advantage to vote from home.”

Penziul said it will probably take about two days to count the absentee ballots and add those numbers to the overall totals.

Biden is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, having earned enough delegates to secure the party’s nomination at the convention in August.

Despite that fact, 11 candidate names appeared on the primary ballot. Andrew Yang picked up 22 votes to hold fourth place after the in-person tally.

Other candidates earning votes included Peter Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael R. Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Michael Bennet and Deval Patrick.

Democrats could also select up to six delegates from the 23rd Congressional District to vote at the party convention. The top two vote-getters after Tuesday night are Hilda T. Lando (481 votes) and Shawn D. Hogan (442).

There was no Republican presidential primary, as President Donald Trump has already secured all of New York’s GOP delegates. Even so, some Steuben County Republicans were itching to cast ballots on Tuesday.

“We had a lot of Republicans come out wanting to vote,” Penziul said. “There’s not a Republican primary. They’re like, ‘Why not? I want to vote for Trump.’ Well, yeah, okay, in November, you can.

“Even in cards we sent out, we let them know on the card, it’s a Democratic primary.”

PENZIUL