New Yorkers flooded polling stations on Saturday, the first day of early voting in the state, anxious to ensure their ballots are counted given the challenges of holding a contentious presidential election in the midst pandemic.
By 9:30 a.m., shortly before the ballot box opened, more than 300 people had already lined up outside Madison Square Garden, the vast majority of them wearing face masks and doing their best to follow the distancing rules social. Less than 15 minutes later, the lineage had grown by over 100.
Bottom line, Aaron Weston, 50, said he was prepared to wait as long as needed to vote early.
“I didn’t want to let everything that’s going on with the coronavirus stop me from starting over this year – especially when it‘s so important,” Mr. Weston said.
There were similar long lines at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, The Armory in Washington Heights, and other major sites in the city.
Saturday was the first time New Yorkers were allowed to vote early in a presidential election, which is expected to produce an all-time high turnout. No less than 3.3 million people out of 4.7 million active voters in New York, or 70%, are expected to vote by mail or in person, according to one estimate.
Recent incidents involving postal votes have led many voters to the polls on Saturday. This week, some voters said they did not believe their votes would be counted if they mailed out ballots. Late last month, the city’s Council of Elections came under fire after as many as 100,000 Brooklyn voters received mail-in ballots with the wrong names and addresses.
In the June primaries, the Election Bureau, a quasi-independent agency controlled by the two main parties, failed to send mail ballots to an unknown number of voters on time. It also took more than six weeks to finalize the results of the main Congressional Democratic primary races due to an influx of mail-in votes.
Recent failures and reports of long lines and queues in other parts of the country, including Georgia and Texas, have raised concerns that New York’s early voting may be marred by problems.
Voters will have until November 1 to vote. The nine-day early voting period aims to increase voter turnout by making voting more convenient. Depending on the day, early voting sites will open as early as 7 a.m. and stay open until 8 p.m., including this weekend and the next day.
Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting