NEW YORK – One million New Yorkers cast their votes in the first five days of early voting, state election officials said Wednesday, but many of the votes were not without problems.
People across the state have been enduring wait times of up to several hours to cast their votes since early voting began on Saturday. About 8 percent of New York’s roughly 13 million registered voters have turned out during the four days, according to unofficial figures from the state Board of Elections.
The number of voters statewide has risen every day since Sunday, with nearly 323,000 people voting on Tuesday alone.
More than 500,000 of the 1 million votes during the first five days were cast in New York City, according to the board. It’s the first time New York has allowed early voting locations in a presidential election and long lines were anticipated from day one. Queues remain a problem Wednesday, as one person said someone he knew spent six hours waiting in line to vote.
Still, not all polling places were completely full. One woman said she was in and out within minutes at her Brooklyn location, surprising considering the district has had the most early voting so far. Similar situations were reported in all five boroughs, but waiting in lines for hours has been much more common for most of the city’s voters.
By borough, the smallest total of early votes is in Staten Island, but compared to registered voters, turnout is 14 percent so far.
Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his attack on the city’s Board of Elections, calling for changes to be made, a day after he voted after waiting in line for hours, along with his constituents.
“It was an extraordinarily frustrating experience to be there for hours. I shouldn’t have been there, forced to wait hours and hours for early voting,” he lamented. De Blasio has pushed for more polling machines and workers, two complaints that came a day after the BOE extended early voting hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to include an additional nine hours.
Just north of New York City, Westchester County has also extended its early voting hours, but only 60 minutes for each day remaining.
For voters who would prefer not to cast their vote in person, Tuesday was the last day to request an absentee ballot online, by email, by fax or by mail.
New York is the largest state of more than two dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio, where voters can request an absentee ballot up to seven days before the election.
Reports of long waits at early voting sites have led to criticism that there are too few polling places. There are 280 early voting sites across the state, including 88 in New York City.
In 35 counties, there is only one early voting site.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said his county has already surpassed all early votes cast in 2019 and asked his county board of elections to extend hours and add additional polling places.
“With five more days of early voting remaining, we must strengthen our efforts and do everything we can to ensure that all of our residents can vote safely and quickly,” he said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has also asked the board of elections to extend its hours for the remainder of the early voting period Wednesday afternoon, saying the county “must ensure that all voters can exercise their right to vote safely and conveniently.. “
Similarly, in Rockland County, an expansion of early voting hours is being considered, but its Democratic election commissioner and Republican election commissioner are at odds, LoHud.com reported.
Early voting continues through Sunday. Election day is next Tuesday, November 3.