BROOKLYN – Early voting began on Saturday, and people were met with long lines that stretched blocks and waited for hours to cast their vote. Now, elected officials are calling for change at the Board of Elections.
According to the Board of Elections, 193,915 people voted on Saturday and Sunday in NYC. The highest turnout came from Brooklyn, which had 61,315 voters. Then came Manhattan with 40,838, Queens with 40,278, the Bronx with 30,484, and Staten Island with 21,000. People waited for two to three hours. Some waited for even more. People brought with them lawn chairs and snacks. Brooklyn United Marching Band & Drumline marched alongside voters, energizing everyone up with their music.
“New Yorkers were engaging in a real way and participating in how they can cast their ballots. We all know that this is an important election, and we want to show our true spirit of participating in our democracy,” Borough President Eric Adams said at his press conference this morning outside the Barclays Center. “But, we have to continue to improve. We want to make sure that there are no barriers to the continuation of the early voting process as we move forward.”
Over the weekend, early voting sites were open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. But lines stretched blocks even before it hit 9:30 a.m. One voter, Christina Viguerez from Crown Heights, said she was waiting in like for two and a half hours on Saturday before she could go inside the Brooklyn Museum to cast her ballot. She also had brought along her two children with her so they could experience “what Democracy is all about,” she said.
“I was completely not prepared for what happened. I went there early and thought there would be just a few people in line. But the line went for blocks, and I was not able to go in until close to three hours later,” she explained. “My kids were getting restless, but luckily there were other kids on the line, so they got to play with one another. There has to be a better way. This has to be better planned. I am not sure whose fault it is, but everyone needs to step it up. This is supposed to determine our future for the next four years.”
“We want to alleviate, if not eradicate, the confusion of which site to go to since it’s different from normal polling sites. We had many people that were waiting for extremely long hours. We were dealing with inclement weather, and that may have cost a large number of voters,” Adams continued. “We want to ensure the highest turnout.”
Over the weekend, the polls were open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, however today its 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they are open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Thursday, they are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Friday, they are open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The times need to be the same, politicians stressed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the Board of Elections to increase the number of voting machines, ensure staff is available at early voting sites, and expand weekend hours.
“For years and years, New Yorkers have been waiting for a moment to express their views on the direction of our country, waiting through such difficult times through this pandemic, through all the pain, all the challenges. Energy had been building up, and that energy exploded in such a positive way this weekend for early voting. We saw people really own their democracy this weekend in NYC,” de Blasio said this morning at his press conference. “But right now, we’ve got a problem. The Board of Elections was clearly not prepared for this kind of turnout and needs to make adjustments immediately to be able to support all the New Yorkers who want to take part in the Democratic process.”
“Long lines tell people to go home. That’s just the reality. Long lines at a poll site discourage voting. They don’t encourage it,” he continued. “And we’ve worked so hard over these last years to make voting, to make the Democratic process, better, to make it more accessible, to make it more clearer. We cannot, at this crucial moment, see people discouraged.”
On Sunday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez said in a press conference that waiting two hours to vote is unacceptable and is a form of voter suppression. When asked if de Blasio agreed, he said he’d word it a bit differently.
“I would say that when election authorities don’t make voting easy, they discourage people from voting. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy at the Board of Elections; I think there’s incompetence at the Board of Elections, and I think the Board of Elections is just the wrong organization,” he said. “The way they’re structured, it should be abolished. It should be replaced by either a city agency or a state agency, a professional modern agency that runs elections like we would run any other city service.”
According to Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., who was with Adams at his press conference this rainy morning, early voting needs to be easier. And there is still time to make sure that happens.
“I want to give a big shoutout to Brooklynites who stood on long lines and waited. I saw chairs, snacks, juice, children, games being played, parents really really committed to this process. Early voting was established to make voting easier; to make participation in a crucial part of our democracy more accessible. That’s why we need to pay attention to the experiences that voters are facing as they go to the polls. Election authorities need to pivot and shift to make sure we don’t see those long lines… My message to voters remains unchained; your vote absolutely unequivocally matters.”