Turnout for the 2020 election soared in Suffolk County and on the East End to the highest level in decades, with more than 75 percent of registered voters casting ballots, and more than 80 percent in some towns.
Southold, Shelter Island and Smithtown all saw turnouts of more than 80 percent, while Southampton and East Hampton both saw just over 77 percent turnout.
Countywide turnout in the 2016 presidential election was about 70 percent and the 2012 election just over 65 percent. In the 2018 mid-term election, turnout was only about 55 percent countywide and 57 percent in the 1st Congressional District.
The final tallying of absentee ballots was concluded on December 3, exactly one month after Election Day.
New York State election law made the state’s count one of the most drawn out in the country, because county election officials are not allowed to count any absentee ballots until two weeks after Election Day, to allow for mailed-in ballots from around the country and overseas to be received.
The Suffolk County Board of Elections processed some 168,000 absentee ballots this year, compared to just 42,000 in the 2016 presidential election.
The county was evenly split over support for the current presidential administration and the incoming one. President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence got 220 more votes than President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris from among all of Suffolk County’s voters. The Republican incumbents’ support came in the western towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown and in Riverhead. But voters from Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns supported Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris by wide margins.
Nearly 70 percent of East Hampton voters supported the president-elect while Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris got 68.4 percent of votes on Shelter Island and 56.8 percent in Southampton Town.
U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin again relied on strong support in the densely populated towns of Brookhaven, Islip and Smithtown at the western portion of the 1st Congressional District to carry him to secure a fourth term in the House of Representatives.
On the East End, the congressman got more than 58 percent of Riverhead’s ballots, but all four other towns favored Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff.
Mr. Zeldin did, however, out-perform President Trump in all four towns — even in heavily Democratic East Hampton, where he got about 2 percent more votes than the outgoing president.
The heavily Democratic split of absentee ballots narrowed Mr. Zeldin’s lead from the counting of in-person ballots released on Election Day, from more than 65,000 to just over 36,000, but the incumbent still concluded the race with a 9 percentage point victory.
Despite the near impossibility of making up the Election Day gap, Ms. Goroff had pledged not to conceded the race until all the absentee ballots had been counted. On Thursday evening, December 3, she formally acknowledged the result.
“Despite our loss, I am so proud of the work we’ve done together, and I am confident that our work will have a long lasting impact on Suffolk,” she said in a statement. “Our mission on this campaign has always been rooted in science. We fought for leadership and policy guided by facts and science, and that fight will always be worth it.”
The race for the 1st Senatorial District, which has been held by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle for the last 30 years, also narrowed considerably after the absentee ballots were counted, though the outcome remained the same. Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, a Republican, saw his election night lead of more than 18,000 votes over Democratic challenger Laura Ahearn dwindle to 4,663, but held on to win with 51.4 percent of all votes cast.
“As our new Senator, I will work hard every day to continue the legacy of retiring Senator Ken LaValle and build upon his strong record of protecting the environment, supporting our schools and fighting for taxpayers,” Mr. Palumbo said on Friday. “This is the honor of a lifetime and I thank the voters of the 1st Senate District for putting their trust in me.”
Veteran State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. easily won reelection to a 15th two-year term in Albany, with about 58.3 percent of the vote. He received 40,689 votes, the largest total he has ever received in his 14 assembly elections — which he has won by at least 10,000 votes in each of his last three races. Mr. Thiele got 75 percent of the vote in Shelter Island, 73 percent in East Hampton, and 60 percent of the vote in Southampton Town.
“I appreciate the vote of confidence in the job I have done,” Mr. Thiele, who is from Sag Harbor and is a former Southampton Town councilman and supervisor, said in a statement on Monday. “I look forward to representing eastern Long Island at this critical time in our history. We face a major task to protect our citizens from the continuing pandemic in the coming months and to undertake an economic recovery that returns health and prosperity to all New Yorkers. I look forward to the challenge.”
In the lone local race on the South Fork, for Southampton Town Justice, Democratic candidate Karen Sartain easily won the seat on the town bench over Republican challenger Patrick Gunn, with 53.5 percent of the vote. Mr. Gunn’s 355 vote lead after Election Day withered quickly in the counting of absentee ballots, more than 3,000 of which were from Democratic voters. Ms. Sartain finished with a wining margin of more than 2,200 votes.