BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the third day of early voting for primary races across New York state, several polling places across Western New York were mostly quiet — which made it rather convenient for Lynne Rapin to stop by and cast her ballot.

"No line,” she said. “I'm done. I think we need more than just an 18-hour period to vote.”

What You Need To Know

  • Early voting is underway for the June 22 primary election in New York state
  • More than 2.5 million New Yorkers used early voting in the November 2020 general election
  • Without high-profile presidential or statewide races on the ballot, turnout is expected to be much lower for the primary


New Yorkers have that opportunity for the third year since early voting began here in 2019. More than 2.5 million people voted early in last year's general election. Without a presidential or gubernatorial race on the ballot this month, elections officials have seen much lower numbers — and expect that to continue.

"This is an off-cycle election in a primary where only folks that are registered in a party that has a primary can vote," said Jeremy Zellner, Erie County Board of Elections Democratic commissioner. "We're seeing a low turnout, but it's not a surprise. This is what you usually have when you have this kind of election."

But Zellner says in many places, important races are happening for offices like mayor, sheriff and town and village boards.

"Hotly-contested local races that touch people's lives every day also," he said. "So we're hoping that folks take advantage of our expansive early voting through the week."

And as the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be winding down, fewer people are using absentee or mail-in ballots, but that still remains an option. 

Zellner says last year's tumultuous election cycle prepared them to make this one as smooth as possible.

"We worked really hard to implement all these changes that were coming at us on a daily basis, yet we were still able to process hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots," Zellner said.

While turnout is expected to be much lower for this primary, voters say it's still a critical part of the democratic process.

"It's tremendously important," voter Zaida Belendez said. "This is where we live. This is where we experience how our elected officials have chosen to spend this money."

"We have to participate in government, whether it's an off-year or not," Rapin said. "If we don't participate in the off-years, maybe we're not going to have so many opportunities in the busier years."

Early voting runs through June 20, while primary election day is June 22 across the state.