This is the first time New Yorkers have had the opportunity to vote early in a presidential election and many took advantage of this opportunity.
Around 422,166 New Yorkers cast their ballots this weekend, according to preliminary numbers released by the State Board of Elections.
“Basically our message is, it’s safe to come out and vote, whether you do it by absentee or in person,” said John Conklin, director of public information at the State Board of Elections.
Although many headed to the polls early, with the thought to skip the long lines on Election Day, in some polling places around the state, the wait stretched over an hour.
Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the long lines could deter certain voters.
“It really is a failure of the government if there are long lines, because they’re the ones that are supposed to spend the money to make sure that our constitutional rights are protected and that when people go to vote they don’t have to stand outside to do it,” Horner emphasized.
Conklin said however, that early voting means less polling sites are open and fewer workers are available.
For example, there are 287 polling places open for early voting across the state compared to 5,200 on Election Day.
“It’s designed to be a supplement to Election Day, not a substitute for Election Day,” Conklin said. “The local boards did what they could to bring additional resources over the weekend to sort of mitigate the lines but there are limits to what they can do. But for the most part I think all the stories were positive in terms of voter enthusiasm, the lines were long just because of the volume.”
State Board of Election officials warned in August that they would need more resources and requested $50 million to implement changes to the election system this year.
That money was never delivered, and Horner says this speaks volumes to the board’s ability to effectively handle an election.
“New York has had a crummy election system for a long time; it’s time for a big overhaul of how elections are run in New York,” Horner explained. “No one should have to stand in line for hours to vote. That’s a failure of government policy and a failure of government bureaucracy and it has to change.”
Tuesday, October 27 is the last day to apply online for an absentee ballot and November 1, this Sunday, is the last day for early voting.