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Huge turnout at start of early voting

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL AND LINCOLN ANDERSON | This past weekend the anxiety and frustration of countless New Yorkers seemed to evaporate as they lined up throughout the city for the first round of voting in the presidential election. For the first time in New York State, early voting for president saw thousands patiently wait hours at 88 polling sites in the city to cast a ballot.

The line on E. 25th St. outside the Hunter Brookdale Dorm poll site on Saturday doubled back on itself and stretched for six blocks. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

Saturday morning at the Hunter College Brookdale Dorm, on E. 25th St., a line of voters stretched to First Ave. and then up several blocks, doubling back on itself in several places. Some people sat in lawn chairs while others unfolded newspapers and magazines to pass the time.

Many in line voiced relief, rather than resentment, at the up to four-hour wait. Once the voters were inside the poll site, Board of Elections workers directed them to a row of check-in desks separated by large plexiglass barriers, and then to booths to mark their ballots, before finally inserting the ballots into a counting machine.

East Village resident Emily Margolin wore a “VOTE” face mask — plus a “VOTE” necklace, too — as she waited near the end of the line on E. 12th St. to cast her early ballot at the Campos Plaza poll site Saturday. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

A similar scene played out at the Campos Plaza Community Center, on E. 13th St. in the East Village, where long lines of masked voters waited patiently.

Also on Saturday, Village activist Sharon Woolums, who was working at the St. Anthony’s Church poll site, at Sullivan and Houston Sts., reported that the line of voters was eight blocks long and there was a four-hour wait.

On Saturday voters checked in before casting their ballots at the Hunter College Brookdale Dorm on E. 25th St (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

“Most were in a good mood and thought it was worth the wait” to vote in the hotly contested election, she said. “They were actually happy to see such a great turnout.”

Sunday saw similar lines, despite colder weather and gray skies. As the day wore on, waits shortened. One voter who arrived at the Hunter College location at 3:30 p.m., half an hour before the polls closed, was done 45 minutes after first lining up.

Voting early at Campos Plaza this past weekend. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

In a tweet, John Blasco, an East Village district leader, reported a heavy turnout and also an upbeat mood among voters despite the long lines.

Arthur Schwartz, the Village Democratic district leader, however, said early voting could have been handled better.

“I went down to see what was  going on at St Anthony’s on Houston and Sullivan,” he said. “The line was so so long. I am disappointed that the state did not fund the Board of Elections to have a far greater number of early voting locations. People had to wait far too long.

Voters inside the Campos Plaza poll site on Saturday. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

“At least for weekend voting, there should have been more than one site in an Assembly district, which is about what we had,” he noted. “New York was the 37th state to have early voting, and the process needs a lot of work. I am surprised that there hasn’t been more noise about this from elected officials.

“I am terrified about the lines on Nov. 3,” he said.

In fact, there was one confusing glitch, of sorts, if it could be called that. Basically, voters in a couple of election districts in the Village — including around Washington Square Village — were told their early voting place was Madison Square Garden.

Voters waiting — in a socially distanced line — outside Campos Plaza Saturday. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

Sugar Barry, a longtime member of the Washington Square Association, was among those frustrated to learn in early October that her early voting site was the Midtown sports arena.

“Which is annoying because Skirball will be open — just not for our address,” she said at that time, referring to New York University’s Skirball Center. The N.Y.U. theater is one of 16 designated sites in Manhattan for early voting.

“I had requested a mail-in ballot, but with all the fuss about postal service I would rather drop it off,” Barry said. “The good news is that you can drop your ballot at any early voting site. So…I will walk over to Skirball and drop it off there.  Much easier.”

Early voting at the Hunter College Brookdale Dorm on E. 25th St. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

District Leader Schwartz said he, too, had heard complaints about the M.S.G. snafu.

“I just got an e-mail from a voter about a second problem,” he said on Sunday night. “Some folks from the Village were told they had to vote at Madison Square Garden after they waited their hour on line. The person who e-mailed me lives on Thompson St., not far from St Anthony’s. With electronic poll books, there is no reason people couldn’t vote anywhere.”

The issue also came up at the Community Board 2 meeting last Thursday. Carter Booth, the board’s chairperson, noted that for him to get to M.S.G. is a 28-block, 15-minute walk, which is not exactly a “user friendly” way to vote.

Bob Gormley, the C.B. 2 district manager, said his understanding was that two election districts may have “had their numbers changed” and so somehow got lumped in with the Garden poll site.

By the end of Sunday the B.O.E. reported 193,915 votes had been cast throughout the five boroughs. That number could rise significantly since, Barry noted, the polling sites also served as drop-off locations for absentee ballots. Nationwide more than 57 million people have voted early.

Early voting will continue daily through Sun., Nov. 1, with Election Day on Tues., Nov. 3. For information on early voting days, times and locations, go to https://vote.nyc .

4 Comments

  1. Michael Conway Michael Conway October 26, 2020

    You wrote “after they waited their hour on line.” When people stand one-behind-the other, they are “in line,” like the wheels in skates.

    Thanks 🙂

  2. Everynight Charley Crespo Everynight Charley Crespo October 26, 2020

    When I finally was at the front of the line, a new arrival asked me how long I had waited. I said four years.

    • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | October 29, 2020

      If someone says, “Get in line!” that sounds like a drill sergeant giving an order. If someone says, “I’m going to go wait on line,” that sounds like what someone at a poll site might say. It seems though that we’re getting away from the main point here, which is the importance of voting! Whether you wait ON line or IN line, just vote!

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