Scenes of hours-long lines for early voting from around the nation came to Westchester on Saturday as New Yorkers had their first opportunity to cast their votes in the general election.
In Peekskill and Mount Kisco, voters reported standing in line for three to four hours for the first of nine days of early voting. Despite the apparent inconvenience, those in line shrugged off the wait as part of their civic responsibility.
Many stood for an hour or more before the doors opened at noon at the Peekskill Nutrition Center on Nelson Avenue. The line formed outside the center’s front door, extended onto the sidewalk, snaked around the corner onto Main Street and down the block before curling into the Bohlman Towers parking lot.
“I got here at 11 (a.m.) and I just sent a friend a text that it’s one o’clock and I’m still in line, but that’s okay,” said Peekskill resident Sal Girardi, who is usually in the city during the week. “I just wanted to make sure there was nothing that could happen that wouldn’t allow me to vote.”
Some of those waiting remarked how they had been planning to vote by absentee ballot but didn’t trust the postal service or that their vote would count.
Peekskill’s Felecia Morris, who arrived about 11:30 a.m. to stand on line with a friend, struck up conversations with others on the line to help pass the time. There were no incidents and people waited patiently and quietly. Some came prepared by bringing folding chairs from home so they wouldn’t have to stand incessantly.
“I wanted to come down and make sure I got my vote in,” Morris said. “It was a little nerve-racking, and we weren’t sure about what was going to happen on Election Day because of the threats from the hate groups, but I’m ready for that, too.”
Another woman who identified herself only as Deb from Montrose said she decided to vote early because she will be poll watching on Election Day. While standing on line around the corner from the nutrition center, she took the wait in stride.
“It’s like waiting on line for Ticketmaster for Who tickets,” she said. “Remember those days? Well worth it.”
In Mount Kisco, the line started forming about 9 a.m. at the Leonard Park pool complex and extended beyond the tennis courts, said Mayor Gina Picinich. One police officer estimated that about 400 people were in line.
At one point, an anonymous donor ordered 10 pizza pies from a local pizzeria to feed voters standing in line.
Picinich advised that there are eight more days to vote before Election Day. Early voting runs through Sunday, Nov. 1.
“I expect the line’s going to move pretty swiftly because there’s plenty of room, lots of space for people to vote, but there’s great enthusiasm not only from people in the village but all the surrounding communities,” she said.
This year registered voters who live anywhere in Westchester County are able to visit any of the 17 early voting polling places to case their ballot. On Saturday morning, County Executive George Latimer visited the Pound Ridge Town House.
Outside the nutrition center in Peekskill, David Duncan of Cortlandt said he didn’t want to take any chances for such a crucial election. He was willing to stand on line for as long as it takes.
“This is a special year,” he said. “Six months we were locked in our homes watching the worst show ever. So we need to put in our votes to get rid of this.”
Before the early voting got underway, Democratic 17th Congressional District candidate Mondaire Jones and state Sen. Peter Harckham appeared at an early voting rally at the Peekskill gazebo. Afterward, Jones said the unprecedented enthusiasm and recognition about the importance of voting was an encouraging sign.
In Orangetown in Rockland County, 300 people were on line by 9:30 a.m., he said.
“There’s just tremendous excitement and the messages we’ve been getting on social media and the text messages I’ve been getting is literally every polling location is experiencing this same kind of sustained turnout,” he said. “So I don’t think people are turning out to maintain the status quo. I think they’re turning out for change and that’s exciting to see.”