By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI
OBSERVER Staff Writer
Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, and turn out is expected to be somewhat high, mostly because the presidential seat is up for grabs.
President Barack Obama.
Republican Party Election Commissioner Brian Abrams of the Chautauqua County Board of Elections said he expects about 65 to 70 percent of the 78,000 registered voters will turn out to vote. "Presidential election years always bring out large numbers," he explained. He said the turnout in the last presidential race was about 70 percent.
SUNY Fredonia Professor of Political Science Raymond Rushboldt also said presidential elections have higher turnout, "because of the interest in them and the large amounts of media attention."
Rushboldt said public expectations of the president's role also affect turnout. "We are probably looking at divided government again at least in terms of House and Senate. The race is difficult to predict because it is so close and because a small swing one way or another can make a big difference," he stated.
The electoral college system may present difficulties in predicting outcomes, according to Rushboldt. "In the electoral college, in a swing state if they all swing one way it will look like a large margin even though the popular vote will be close. If that is the case then we should know who wins early in the evening. But if they are all close, who knows?" he said.
Abrams said the Chautauqua County board of Elections is prepared to make sure votes are counted once the polls close Tuesday night. "We want to make sure the numbers are accurate, our staff well trained and that voters have a pleasant experience. "That's the key, really - that voters have a pleasant experience and we get results timely and feel comfortable with everything that was done and that it was all done to the best of our abilities," he explained.
Democratic Party Election Commissioner Norm Green, who is also the Democratic party chair, refused to comment on the election.
Chautauqua County Republican Party Chair Allan Hendrickson said he is enthusiastic about his party's prospects in the county and state races.
"I'm enthusiastic about our chances this year. I think we're going to do well," he said, but noted weather-related issues in New York City may delay election results if power isn't restored. "We'll see how it goes. I don't think anyone can predict now," he said. "I think it's looking good for us here in Chautauqua County."
Hendrickson said voter enthusiasm is high in his party. "There is more enthusiasm this year than in many many years. We ran out of Romney/Ryan signs. It's a small thing but it's indicative of the enthusiasm. We've just never ran into that before," he said.
Uncertainty about power restoration in New York City may make early election results unclear according to Hendrickson. "I'm not sure what the situation will be with New York City and the power outage. Will electricity all be restored by next Tuesday? I don't know."
In New York City, Hendrickson said he has heard conflicting information about how elections will be conducted if the power remains out and is not sure how that will affect statewide elections. "I've heard they might give out ballots by the National Guard. It could be a big factor, how they handle that. I haven't been able to get any information I feel comfortable with," he said.
Hendrickson predicts many wins for his party including the county judge race. "(William) Coughlin, being from the north (end of the) county will probably garner more votes from there, but I'm still confident (Judge John) Ward will win," he said. "We have an excellent list of candidates."
"I have confidence with Andy Goodell and Cathy Young - she has no opposition. I'm confident about (Tom) Reed. ... I'm confident we're good there," he said, but added, "the state is predominantly Democratic so who knows. I think we have an excellent candidate for New York State Senate, but an uphill battle with an incumbent Democrat."
Abrams said he doesn't foresee any surprises at the polls for the Board of Elections. "The hours are the same. The only thing that might be new for some people who only come out on presidential years are the electronic voting machines," he said. "They aren't really new to us, but could be new to a lot of individuals who haven't voted in a while."
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