The coronavirus pandemic has postponed graduations, canceled concerts and upended the sports world. But democracy, hopefully, is the one thing the virus can't beat.
New Yorkers head to the polls on Tuesday in the midst of a pandemic that so far has killed more than 24,000 residents in this state. New cases of the virus have, for now, leveled off in the state to less than 1 percent of those tested as it spikes elsewhere in the country.
As New York was facing the worst of the pandemic in March and April, state officials began to re-arrange the primary calendar. The presidential primary was moved from April 28 to June 23. It was nearly dropped entirely by state Board of Elections, but a federal judge reversed that order.
Absentee ballot applications were mailed to all eligible voters and more than one million were requested. New York, in effect, now has no-excuse absentee balloting through an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, wiping away a list of narrow exemptions.
"It's a pretty intense period, no doubt about it," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "On the one hand, running elections is always sort of a struggle for New York. On top of it, we're living in a once-in-a-century pandemic."
Or as the League of Women Voters Jennifer Wilson puts it: "It's not going to be your typical Election Day tomorrow."
So what should voters expect? For starters, wear a mask and socially distance. There may also be fewer poll workers, who tend to be older people, who are also more prone to the virus.
"I think in general you might see less poll workers at poll sites not just because they can't find people," Wilson said.
The worst-case scenario are the scenes that played out in other states like Georgia or Wisconsin: Long lines of voters and limited polling sites that do not look like free or fair elections.
New York has 255 early voting sites that were open from June 13 to June 21. There are 3,930 polling sites on Election Day.
And then there are the absentee ballots. Typically the comprise about 1 or 2 percent of all the votes cast. A wave of ballots is expected to land in the mailboxes of local elections boards -- with many more potentially coming in November for the general election.
"I think this is really important to do the test run now so we can prepare for November," Wilson said. "But we also have to have the governor extend some of his executive orders for November, so we do have plenty of time to prepare."
Just don't hold your breath expecting results on the night of Election Day: 1.7 million absentee ballots were requested. Four years ago, 157,885 applications for absentee ballots were received.
"The more that people use a mailing to cast their ballots, the longer the wait is going to have be," NYPIRG's Horner said. "But I think we would all have to agree public health safety trumps how quickly who the winners and losers are on election night."
Polls open in New York at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Polling sites can be found here and here for New York City voters.