Suffolk’s vote reporting is slower than Nassau’s; election officials cite new software

Suffolk County election officials who expected Tuesday night’s election results to be “on time” and “faster” than Nassau County’s had little to explain Wednesday after delays pushed Suffolk’s posting until after Nassau’s.

Tuesday night’s delay of less than an hour followed an even longer delay in 2022 that pushed back the announcement of preliminary results by more than two hours, until after midnight.

This week, the Suffolk County Board of Elections did not release the first wave of election results until about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, more than half an hour after Nassau County did, according to a Newsday analysis. Prior to 2022, results were typically released sometime after 9:40 p.m., the board said. The polling stations close at 21:00

Complete Nassau election results were available around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, more than an hour before complete Suffolk results were in, according to the report.

Suffolk County Republican Elections Commissioner Betty Manzella had said in a Nov. 2 news article that the agency did not anticipate “any delay” after implementing upgrades and testing in the weeks leading up to the vote. Suffolk Deputy Chief of State Lisa Black went further, saying Suffolk “will be quicker to report the numbers than Nassau this year.”

In a statement in response to Newsday questions Wednesday, Manzella said Suffolk “did not experience any problems in releasing the unofficial results.”

Rather, she said the county’s new election management software system “took a little longer to upload the unofficial results from the field than we’re used to…” The system was recently certified by New YorkState after being installed by Suffolk in September.

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Suffolk has 326 polling places that close at 21.00. After the machines are officially closed, poll workers from these sites transport data cards to secure locations throughout Suffolk, from Melville to Montauk. “On the secure sites, we have to upload 1,258 data cards,” Manzella said, adding that an hour “is not an unusually long time to do this task.”

She noted that in previous years election results would begin at 9:40 a.m. or later, but that “significant changes” have been implemented since then, including the counting of pre-scanned absentee ballots, extra security measures and the updated software.

“No one outside of an election board understands what it takes to conduct elections and deliver timely but accurate results, which is what we strive to do,” she wrote. Suffolk Republican Party Chairman Jesse Garcia said he has full confidence in Manzella.

A spokesman for the Suffolk County Executive’s Office referred questions about the tally and Black’s promise to outdo Nassau County to the Board of Elections. Manzella said the Board of Elections “appreciates the confidence she has [Black] has in our ability,” but noted that the county executive’s office has “no role in conducting county elections by design through New York State Election Law.”

A Nassau County spokesman did not return a message seeking comment.

Suffolk’s late release of the first results in 2022 was tied to a slowdown in electronic processing of results from field upload sites, Newsday reported. The board at the time blamed the problem on an “overtaxed” reporting system burdened by “additional functions combined with additional processing functions” which slowed down the board’s “legacy operating system.”

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Manzella said in his Wednesday email that the Board of Elections will “continue to explore how to fine-tune the system. We are currently working on ways to increase the speed of data transmission.”

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