Poll sites in New York City opened at 6 a.m. Thursday, where residents were already lining up to cast ballots in an historic presidential election amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Election Day comes after more than a week of early voting in New York, during which more than 1.1 million residents already cast their votes, facing long lines in some neighborhoods but smooth operations in others.
Whoever wins the White House will have substantial impact on New York City’s future; candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden have vastly different platforms when it comes to issues like education, climate change, economic recovery, aging, health care, housing and immigration.
Beyond the presidential race, New Yorkers heading out to vote Nov. 3 are being asked to choose their representatives in Congress, the state Senate and Assembly and a number of Civil and Supreme Court Judges.
Competitive local races include the 11th Congressional District in south Brooklyn and Staten Island, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Max Rose will fight to hold onto his seat against Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Malliotakis is not seeking re-election in the Assembly, meaning her seat in the 64th district is up for grabs: Brandon Patterson, an aide to state Sen. Diane Savino, is hoping to defeat Michael Tannousis, a former Bronx and Richmond County prosecutor, for the position.
In the state Senate, Democratic Sen. Andrew Gounardes is facing a competitive challenge from Vito Bruno for the 22nd District (Bay Ridge, Dyke Heights, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach and Marine Park), which only narrowly flipped from red to blue in 2018.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
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Language Access at the Polls
New York City residents speak more than 200 languages, and nearly 23 percent of the city’s population is limited in their English language proficiency, according to city statistics.
This year, voters can get assistance in more languages than ever at the polls. In addition to the services offered by the city’s Board of Elections—which provides language assistance in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Bengali, Punjabi, or Hindi at select poll sites—the newly formed Civic Engagement Commission is also providing help at select sites for speakers of Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Urdu and Yiddish, according to its website.
Carolina E. Beteta has worked as a poll interpreter for seven years, most recently at P.S. 19 on Staten Island, where she said more voters were requesting an interpreter on Tuesday than ever before: By early afternoon on Election Day, she’d already assisted some 35 people, more than she’d worked with during all of the early voting period.
At Staten Island’s P.S. 20, poll site interpreter Mercedes Rodríguez had helped 10 voters so far by around 3 p.m., including four first-time voters. Some of them required assistance or just wanted to “feel more comfortable having someone who speaks Spanish by one’s side,” says Rodríguez.
Staten Island / City Hall
Late Openings & Polling Place Layout Concerns
At a press briefing Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that voting across the city was going “smoothly” so far overall, though he acknowledged that “there are definitely a few problems” including long lines at some sites, and some poll sites—six of them across the city—which opened later than 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
“This is not acceptable,” Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson said at the same press briefing, noting that hundreds of Election Day observers will be at sites across the city to monitor for problems or things like voter intimidation. “We will be following up on ways to reform the Board of Elections post-Election Day, because New Yorkers deserve better.”
At two polling places on Staten Island, site supervisors told City Limits they’re troubled by the physical layout of the sign-in tables, privacy booths and scanning machines prescribed by the Board of Elections.
The way a poll site looks is not random: The BOE instructs the site staff on how to arrange the tables and equipment, and has even been known to order a rearrangement as voting was occurring if the layout does not follow the plan.
The set-up is different this year, the supervisors say, and not in a good way: At one site, the Election District markers on sign-in tables aren’t visible to voters entering the room, creating confusion and a potential bottleneck as people try to find their bearings. At another site, there is almost no space for people to line up for the scanning machines—a potential problem if a big evening rush occurs.
Poll supervisors are also keeping an eye out for electioneering violations: state law forbids any campaigning within a 100-foot zone of a poll site, including the wearing of election paraphernalia.
“I’ve had a few people come in with their Trump hats or T-shirts,” Rosmarie Pagano, a poll supervisor at Staten Island’s P.S. 3, told City Limits Tuesday. “I tell them, you’ve got to take it off.”
Staten Island / The Bronx / Brooklyn
Longer Morning Lines Than Usual
By 9 a.m., residents and poll workers were reporting longer lines of voters Tuesday than in previous years’ elections. At P.S. 56 in the Norwood neighborhood of the Bronx, the line ran out the door along Decatur Avenue, west on 207th Street and north on Hull Avenue almost to 209th Street.
At P.S. 6 on Page Avenue in Staten Island, some 50 people stood in line waiting to vote before the polls even opened—the longest that Ken McIntyre, a volunteer campaigning for Republican candidates near the school, had seen in the 30 years he’s lived in Tottenville.
The neighborhood is part of the 11th Congressional district, where Democratic Rep. Max Rose is trying to hold on to the seat he won in 2018 against a strong challenge by Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
“She’s the kind of woman that, not only is she attractive, she is highly intelligent. When she talks, it’s all off her head,” McIntyre said of his support for Malliotakis.
Across the Verrazzano Bridge in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn—also part of the 11th Congressional District—a poll worker at P.S./I.S. 30 said there was a line early Tuesday morning, but by 10 a.m. voters were coming in and out of the location without a wait.
The scene was similar at Christ Church, on Ridge Boulevard and 74th Street, where a long line about 100 voters-deep had formed early Tuesday morning but moved quickly once polls opened.