In some parts of New York, vote count shrouded in secrecy

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Polling workers inspect and count absentee ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in New York. Counties across New York began to count more than 1.5 million absentee ballots Monday, a last push that will determine the outcome of several races that remain undecided nearly a week after Election Day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

ALBANY, N.Y. – Policies favoring secrecy over transparency have meant that New Yorkers will be among the last Americans to learn the final vote tallies in the 2020 election, with results in a few races still unknown one month after Election Day.

Several of the locally run elections boards responsible for processing a record 2 million absentee ballots cast in the state decided not to release any rolling updates on how their count of those mail-in votes was progressing until the very last vote was tallied.

While elections officials in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada updated the public daily on how their count of the mail-in vote was going, their counterparts in some parts of New York maintained radio silence, and refused all media requests for information as to how the vote was unfolding.

“The country was looking down their noses at Pennsylvania, Georgia for taking so long,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris. “New York makes them look good. We are the last in the nation in terms of finishing our vote counts and it’s an embarrassment that would have been more widely known were we at play in the presidential election.”

New York City's Board of Elections kept information about its count of more than 662,000 absentee ballots secret until Tuesday. As of Thursday, Suffolk County, on the eastern end of Long Island, still hadn't given any public updates on its tally of more than 160,000 absentee ballots.

Some county election boards chose to give absentee vote tallies to the candidates, but not the public. That left media organizations that have historically played an important role in declaring election winners and losers, including The Associated Press, partly in the dark.

“The transparency has been a problem a long time in New York state,” said Jennifer Wilson, the deputy director of League of Women Voters of New York State, a nonpartisan voting rights advocacy group

Part of the delay in getting results has to do with a state law that generally makes counties wait about a week before they start counting absentee ballots. But Gianaris, a Democrat, said that doesn’t account for the lack of transparency once that count began.