New York votes after primary season like no other

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Eliot Engel

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., talks to reporters before he meets with fellow House Democrats at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 17, 2019. (AP / J. Scott Applewhite)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Polls are open across the state as one of the most unusual primary election seasons in history reaches its conclusion Tuesday. New Yorkers will vote after campaigns whose candidates largely tried connecting with voters online amid the pandemic.

Officials encouraged all registered voters to cast their ballot by mail because of the coronavirus, and the roughly 1.8 million people who requested absentee ballots by mid-June have until Tuesday to send them in.

In-person voting is still happening at locations across the state, but in many upstate counties, the number of polling locations has been reduced by about 3,000. It isn’t clear yet whether that will reduce turnout or lead to bottlenecks in areas with fewer places to cast a vote.

Democrats, Republicans, and other parties are selecting candidates for Congress, president, the state legislature, and other offices. Polls close at 9 p.m., but because absentee ballots won’t be counted for at least a week, the results of many primary contests might not be known until at least late June.

As in New York, overwhelmed Kentucky officials will face a deluge of mailed-in votes likely to delay results. There is national interest in results from both states, particularly in two contests involving African American challengers fueled by voter fury over racism police brutality. In both, Democrats will find out if nationwide protests sparked by last month’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody translates to turnout among Black and progressive voters.

One involves House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York. The Democrat is seeking a 17th House term. His challenger is political neophyte Jamaal Bowman, who has drawn strength from anti-racism protests and his accusations that Engel has grown aloof from his district in parts of the Bronx and Westchester. According to ABC News, former middle school principal Bowman is backed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “and a host of other progressive leaders in New York and Washington.”

The other involves the fight for the Democratic nomination to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, in November. There, former Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath takes on freshman state legislator Charles Booker. His underfinanced campaign caught fire after he attended recent protests against the March police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her Louisville home. That’s helped Booker win support from progressive icons like Sanders and the state’s two largest newspapers, leaving the primary’s outcome unpredictable.

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