New Yorkers stood in long lines to vote early for over the past few days, many waiting under umbrellas, after a weekend that saw a crush of more than 400,000 voters statewide.
State elections officials said 422,169 people voted Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of early voting in New York. The unofficial tally shows about 194,000 voters this weekend in New York City, where some people waited an hour or more in lines that stretched for several blocks.
“We need this to be a better experience. Long lines tell people to go home. That’s just the reality,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday at his daily briefing. "Right now, we've got a problem."
De Blasio accused the city’s Board of Elections of being “clearly not prepared” for the heavy turnout. He urged the board to expand weekend early voting hours, bring more voting machines online before Election Day and make more staffers available to help voters. The mayor said he's going to vote Tuesday at the Park Slope Armory YMCA in Brooklyn.
The governor had similar reviews of the early voting process, saying bluntly: "I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job." U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a different name for it: voter suppression.
"Just because it's happening in a blue state, doesn't mean it's not voter suppression," she said.
While the mayor wasn't quite ready to label it the same, he did have his fair share of criticisms.
"I would say it a little but differently. I would say when the election authorities don't make it easy, they discourage people from voting," de Blasio said. He anticipated that the BOE might say that it doesn't have the money to extend hours this late in the process — and countered that hypothetical argument by saying that the city will pay for it to stay open later.
An email seeking comment was sent to a board spokesperson. As far as possible changes that could be made to the BOE, Gov. Cuomo said that he would "be open to whatever the city proposes and redesign from the ground up."
Early voters continued to turn out steadily on a soggy Monday, though local wait times varied. Thousands were already in line as the run rose in an effort to beat the midday crowds, and at one SoHo location there were approximately 1,000 people waiting to cast a ballot.
Lines were about 10 minutes long at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. At a polling place in midtown Manhattan, some voters waited over two hours. A local hotel handed out tea and coffee to those in line and a little girl gave out candy.
In Staten Island, Republican congressional candidate Nicole Malliotakis faced a short line to vote at an elementary school. She is challenging Democratic Rep. Max Rose.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams questioned the varying hours the BOE was keeping locations open for voters. Tuesday and Wednesday will be noon to 8 p.m.; Thursday will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and the weekend will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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"The inconsistency, we believe, hurts the process. Same hours the way we do on a normal Election Day. People know from the time when it opens to the time that it closes," Adams said.
In suburban Ossining north of New York City, an elderly woman collapsed while waiting in a light rain in a nearly two-hour line to vote. She was taken by stretcher to an ambulance and reemerged in a wheelchair a half-hour later, pushed in to vote as people in line cheered.
The turnout throughout Westchester County is certainly much higher than last year, when early voting was implemented. Most of the 17 early voting polling places in the county still saw lines of more than an hour — not much of an improvement from over the weekend.
Some places are trying to find some different solutions so at-risk voters aren't waiting in line with others for so long. The town of Greenburgh created a separate line for voters over 65, to move them in quicker. The town also brought in food trucks for those waiting in line, and has more plans for this weekend.
"We're going to be organizing some entertainment this weekend, so while people are waiting in line we can find some volunteer musicians who can make it fun," said Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.
It was a similar story on Long Island and upstate in Buffalo, where Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz waited in line with about a dozen voters outside a church. More than 28,000 people voted this weekend in Buffalo and surrounding Erie County.
“More people have early voted in the first two days of early voting in Erie County than all nine days last year,” Poloncarz said as he waited to vote.
Early voting continues until Nov. 1.