Decision 2020

More Than a Million Cast Early Votes in NY; Lines Prompt More Calls for Extra Hours

More than 700,000 of the more than one million votes over the first six days were cast in New York City, according to the state Board of Elections

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One million New Yorkers cast ballots over the first five days of early voting, state elections officials said Wednesday, but many of the votes weren't without problems.

People around the state have been enduring wait times of up to several hours to cast votes since early voting started Saturday. About 8 percent of New York’s roughly 13 million registered voters have turned out over the four days, according to the unofficial figures from the state Board of Elections.

The number of voters statewide has increased each day since Sunday, with almost 323,000 people casting ballots Tuesday.

More than 700,000 of the 1 million votes over the first six days were cast in New York City, according to the board. It's the first time that New York has allowed early voting locations in a presidential election and long lines were anticipated from day one. Lines are still an issue on Wednesday, as one person said someone they knew spent six hours waiting in line to vote.

Still, not every single polling place was completely packed. One woman said that she was in and out within minutes at her location in Brooklyn — somewhat surprising considering that the borough has had the most early voting thus far. Similar situations were reported throughout the five boroughs, but the instances of waiting in hours-long lines has been far more common for most city voters.

By borough, the smallest total of early voters is on Staten Island, but compared to registered voters, turnout there is at 14 percent thus far.

Among the people braving another day of long lines for early voting was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who joined the end of a half-mile-long queue at his Brooklyn polling location in the early afternoon. NBC New York's Katherine Creag reports.

Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his attack on the city's Board of Elections and called for changes to be made, a day after he voted after waiting in line for hours, alongside his constituents.

"It was an extraordinarily frustrated experience to be there for hours. It shouldn't have been there, forced to wait hours and hours for early voting," he lamented. De Blasio has pushed for more machines and poll workers, two complaints that came a day after the BOE extended early voting hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to include nine extra hours.

The BOE also added a new early voting site at Marymount Manhattan College on the Upper East Side, which will open as a polling location on Saturday and Sunday in an effort to relieve crowding.

Just north of NYC, Westchester County has also extended its early voting hours but only for 60 minutes for each remaining days.

The morning rain didn't stop people from lining up in Rockland County. The line wrapped around the block in New City.It's one of four early voting sites in the county. If you live in Rockland you still have a little time to cast your ballot. It was a similar scene over in Westchester county. Lynda Baquero reports from Greenburgh.

For voters who would rather not cast their ballot in person, Tuesday was the last day to apply for an absentee ballot online, by email, by fax or mail.

New York is the largest of over two dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, where voters can request an absentee ballot as late as seven days before the election.

Reports of long waits at early voting sites have led to criticism that there are too few voting locations. There are 280 early polling sites statewide, including 88 in New York City.

In 35 counties, there is only one early voting site.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said his county's already surpassed all early votes cast in 2019 and called on his county board of elections to expand hours and add additional polling locations.

“With five more days of early voting remaining, we must bolster our efforts and do everything that we can to ensure all of our residents can vote safely and quickly,” he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has also called on the board of elections there to extend their hours for the rest of the early voting period Wednesday afternoon, saying that the county "must ensure all voters can exercise their right to vote in a safe and convenient manner."

Similarly in Rockland County, an expansion of early voting hours is being considered but its Democratic elections commissioner and GOP elections commissioner are at odds, reported.

Early voting continues through Sunday. Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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