New York Times ‘I Feel Very Happy to Be a Part of This’: New Yorkers Flock to the Polls by J. David Goodman

New York Times
New York Times
‘I Feel Very Happy to Be a Part of This’: New Yorkers Flock to the Polls
J. David Goodman
11/09/2016
Voters outside of a polling location on 74th Street, between First and Second Avenues, in Manhattan. Local residents said the line stretched around the corner and onto 75th Street earlier in the morning.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

The lines snaked through school hallways and public libraries and down sun-dappled sidewalks, filled with New Yorkers in business suits and exercise attire, alone and with relatives, as they cast their votes on Tuesday.

Some left polling places feeling giddy about finally having their say in a presidential election of rare contentiousness and acrimony between two New Yorkers with wildly different public personas. Some expressed nervousness that their choice of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, or Donald J. Trump, her Republican rival, would not tip the balance nationally given that New York State is overwhelmingly Democratic.

There were first-time voters. Voters who were homeless, like Wendy Range, who had not cast a ballot in roughly two decades. And centenarian voters like Rose Orbach, 104, who voted near her home in Bayside, Queens, in her 16th presidential election.

Ms. Orbach expressed the feeling of many waiting in line on the springlike November day. “I feel very happy to be a part of this, to know I’m here,” she said.

Photo
Voters waited to receive their ballots Tuesday at Public School 57 on Crotona Avenue in the Bronx.CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Others seethed at having to wait — for several hours, in some cases — as lines stretched around blocks and created a generally chaotic atmosphere at polling places on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan, in parts of Brooklyn, and in the Queens neighborhoods of Forest Hills and Cambria Heights.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, cast his ballot in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and visited voting sites in all five boroughs. He praised what appeared to be a significant turnout and pointed to the long lines of voters as evidence for why New York State’s election rules should be changed to allow early voting.

By nightfall, as voters continued to line up around New York, city officials said the crowds at some polling places reflected high interest in the election rather than serious problems with voting. “We’ve seen some isolated trouble spots but no widespread failures at this point,” Eric F. Phillips, Mr. de Blasio’s top spokesman, said.

The number of polling places in New York City has declined in recent years, with the 1,205 operating this year about the same as in 2012 but down from 1,349 in 2008, when President Obama was elected to his first term. Many polling places were consolidated to comply with federal regulations related to people with disabilities, said Councilman Ben Kallos, an Upper East Side Democrat who leads the governmental operations committee.

Over the same period, the number of active registered voters has increased to 4.5 million from 4.1 million.

The flood of voters could be felt across the city.“They were literally counting the number of people in the room to figure out the fire code limits,” Mr. Kallos said of the scene at the 92nd Street Y, where lines moved swiftly.“You’d think ‘Star Wars’ was playing in 1977,” said Dale Feinblatt, 67, who had voted early at a Presbyterian church on First Avenue and 74th Street and then returned to keep friends company while they waited their turn. Some people spent 90 minutes in line.

“This is by far the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen here,” said Joe Weisenfeld, 67, who said he had been voting at the same place, Public School 54 in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island, for 33 years. “If you want to complain, you’ve got to vote.”

Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the city’s Board of Elections, said that reports of broken scanning machines — which frustrated voters across the city — were to be expected in an election with so much attention and such voter enthusiasm.

“In general, the issues with the scanners are typical with an election event,” Mr. Ryan said of the machines, which have been in use since 2010. “The vast majority of the ballot jams are caused by voter error.” He added that turnout appeared to be higher than usual, but that a complete analysis would not be conducted until after the election.

Photo
Wendy Range, 51, volunteering at Crossroads Community Services in Midtown after she voted Tuesday. “It all comes down to this,” she said. CreditBenjamin Norman for The New York Times

The day was not without ugly episodes, including reports of nasty remarks about immigrants at a polling place in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, and of election workers in a polling place in Jackson Heights asking for identification from voters when none was required.

Still, many voters were ebullient about finally voting in what had felt like an interminable election.

In the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, a Dominican stronghold, some people put on suits before voting. Alejandro Paulino, 48, got a haircut for the occasion. “The Latino people, we can make a change,” said Mr. Paulino, who went to the polls at a high school in the neighborhood with his 78-year-old father. “This election is very important to the whole family.”

Ms. Range, 51, who lives in temporary housing near St. Bartholomew’s Church in Midtown Manhattan, cast her ballot at a library on West 53rd Street, a few blocks from where Mr. Trump voted around 11 a.m.

“I’m feeling pretty neat,” she said after voting. “When I got the opportunity to register, it was too important not to. Now, we’ll see what happens.

Issue: 
Elections