NEW YORK (AP) — New Yorkers lined up to cast their final ballots Tuesday, braving a pandemic that added to their worries about ballot security and where the country is headed.
Long lines formed at scattered polling places in the New York City area early Tuesday, even with a record number of people casting ballots by mail or through early voting. But lines were moderate from Buffalo to Brooklyn by evening with no major problems reported. Voters who turned out on the brisk fall day expressed a mix of resolve and resignation over how the election would turn out.
“The country is so divided that I feel like it’s not going to be good either way,” said Nurit Dallimore, who voted in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill. She likened the political climate to the “war zone” atmosphere she remembers from her native Israel.
“Someone’s going to find something to riot about,” she said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office reported no out-of-the-ordinary issues by Tuesday evening. Susan Lerner, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause New York, said there were reports of “obnoxious, noisy” demonstrations of cars and trucks driving around isolated polling places and an “unacceptably high number” of machine breakdowns in Long Island’s Suffolk County.
“Generally speaking, it’s been smoother than we anticipated,” said Lerner, adding that early voting seemed to have cut down on Election Day wait times.
In past elections, 90% of New York’s vote was cast on Election Day, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo relaxed the state’s rules this year to allow anyone worried about the coronavirus to vote by mail.
More than 3.7 million votes, a record, were cast in New York before the polls even opened on Election Day. That includes at least 1.2 million absentee ballots, according to a still-incomplete tally by the state Board of Elections. Any ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted.
In rural Knox west of Albany, 72-year-old Jim Czebiniak said he voted in person Tuesday because he wanted to make sure his vote counted.
“I don’t trust the way the mail is being handled, I don’t trust the way ballots are getting ignored or thrown out,” Czebiniak said outside of Knox Town Hall, where the stream of voters was steady on a chilly morning.
Fellow Knox resident Eric Marczak, a 73-year-old retiree, said he had no concerns about voting during the pandemic.
“Up here, we live in a rural area and I feel like we have an extra layer of protection,” he said.
Across the state, voters set a steady pace at a fire hall in the Buffalo suburb of Lancaster. The town is in New York’s Republican leaning 27th Congressional District, where President Donald Trump won by a large margin in 2016.
It’s also where Bailey Depczynski, 20, voted for president for the first time Tuesday.
She said Trump is being unfairly blamed for the coronavirus spread. “Everyone’s blaming Trump, but it’s not him,” Depczynski said.
This was also the first presidential election in which the state allowed early, in-person voting. More than 2.5 million such ballots were cast, despite hours-long lines at the limited number of early voting stations.
About 7.8 million ballots of all types were cast in New York in the 2016 presidential election.
State and local election officials warn it could take weeks to know the results of tight races.
State law delays the absentee count start until at least Nov. 6 and gives counties until Nov. 28 to report results. That gives local election officials time to cross-check voting data and audit in-person votes.
As people voted, many New York City businesses, including Macy’s flagship Manhattan store, boarded up windows as a precaution. Thousands of city police officers were ready to respond if election-related unrest breaks out. But Chief of Department Terence Monahan said at a Tuesday news conference that they don’t anticipate major disturbances like the ones that roiled U.S. cities earlier this year.
Brooklyn native Jacqueline Nour said she was praying for healing following an excruciating year for New York City and the country.
“The only way you’re going to make a difference is by voting,” she said. “I love America, but this is sad.”