Early Voting Gets Underway in Lower Manhattan

At some downtown polling sites, more campaign staffers than voters

| 13 Jun 2021 | 08:49

Lower Manhattan residents trickled into polling sites on Saturday, taking advantage of the shorter lines and flexible hours that accompany early voting, which runs at several assigned locations until June 20.

New Yorkers may want to check the civic duty off their to-do list, for voters face a heavy-lift this election cycle; they not only have to choose candidates for mayor, city council, borough president, comptroller and public advocate, but must do so in an unfamiliar manner: ranking up to 5 candidates. (For the Manhattan D.A. race, a state office, voters mark only one candidate).

A psychotherapist from Soho — who declined to give her name citing the confidentiality of her profession — took advantage of the opportunity. She arrived at the Saint Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan Street during an overcast afternoon to cast her ballot early.

As to why she came out to vote over a week before the primary: “To get it over with.”

She said she planned to rank Eric Adams, the current front runner and Brooklyn Borough President, as her number one, and Kathryn Garcia, another moderate with top governmental experience (she served as Sanitation Commissioner), as her number two. She added that she would choose a total of 5 candidates.

Steven Turner, a 66-year-old retired man, emerged from the church basement with an “I voted early sticker” (he’s busy on Election Day) pressed against the breast of his blue-striped polo. He ranked Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate and businessman, as his number one (he would not disclose his other three).

Low Turnout

Lines were sparse at the church. A poll worker remarked on the low turnout.

Another major downtown voting site, the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers Street, seemed to include more extended-arm, pamphlet-waiving campaign staffers than voters.

The scene was a stark juxtaposition from last November when lines wrapped around the perimeter of voting sites around the city. This is to be expected. Local, municipal election turnout pales in comparison to that of presidential races.

The last time New Yorkers voted for mayor — Bill de Blasio’s reelection in 2017 — 21.7% of the city’s 5 million registered voters, as the New York Daily News wrote at the time, “bothered to get off the couch” and vote.

Despite the seemingly dismal numbers, experts say early voting is a crucial factor in mass democratic engagement.

Asked about the significance of pre-Election Day ballot access in a phone call with Our Town, Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School and a specialist in state and local government, had a simple answer: “It makes it easier for people to vote.”

“[Early voting] gives working people who may not be able to vote on election day...an opportunity to vote on the weekend.” Briffault added. And “by spreading the time around, there are simply more opportunities for people to vote.”

New Yorkers can find their early voting location and hours, at findmypollsite.vote.nyc.