Election Day has finally arrived and Brooklynites are heading to the polls to do their civic duty.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, voters cast their ballots en masse via mail-in or early voting in the weeks leading up to Tuesday, with more votes cast in Kings County in the 10-day early bird period than in any other borough.
The Board of Elections’ preliminary figures show that Brooklyn accounted for more than a third of all early votes in the city, which totaled 1,119,056 as of Sunday evening.
Many Brooklyn voters flocked to their polling sites to get ahead of the line before the polls opened at 6 am this morning.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other Park Slopers famously waited several hours to cast their ballots during the last week of October, but on the morning of Election Day, many local sites — including the Park Slope Armory — were basically empty.
The Brooklyn New School in Carroll Gardens, and City Tech in Downtown Brooklyn also had little to no lines on Tuesday morning. One voter reported a 10 minute wait at the location by Empire and New York avenues by Crown Heights, and a north Brooklyn elected official said there were almost no lines at Williamsburg and Bushwick poll sites.
“We are very excited, there weren’t any lines,” said Moira Cassidy outside of Brooklyn New School. “No waiting at all.”
Cassidy went to vote with her daughters, Marion and Cecilia, and her husband, Peter. Marion, who was too young to vote in the last election, said she wanted to cast her first ever vote in person.
“It’s my first election, so I thought, why not do it in person,” said Marion.
Outside the Park Slope Library, local Democratic District Leader Doug Schneider called this year’s turnout “astronomical.”
“That’s really exciting,” he said. “This is the fourth poll site I’ve visited, and so many new poll workers, especially young people, who have stepped up to come and work on Election Day. That also is really, really exciting.”
Lines were also tame at the polls in Bay Ridge, where voters will cast their ballots for a contentious congressional and state senate race. The polling site at Fort Hamilton High School saw a week of long lines during early voting, but the site had no line on Tuesday morning.
The same could be said for the Barclays Center in Fort Greene, where lines wrapped around the block during early voting. As voters went to cast their ballots, dancers with the troupe The Day Breakers danced to live music by the marching band, the Hudson Horns.
But not everyone waiting in line to vote was feeling celebratory.
“It is insane what our democracy has come to,” said Dr. David Sussann, referring to several stores in and around Downtown Brooklyn that have boarded up their windows in fear of potential riots. “They have to put fencing around the Apple Store. Never thought I’d see this in my life.”
Outside the Brooklyn Museum Tuesday afternoon, Brooklynites like Cory Lee were faced with minimal waits — and a tough decision.
“I can’t vote for [Joe] Biden,” he told Brooklyn Paper, citing the Democratic nominee’s past support of the Iraq War and the Clinton-era Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The East New York resident said he waited about an hour to write in Bernie Sanders for his presidential pick.
“Some of [Donald] Trump’s policies, like his anti-war stance, I actually support,” he said. “If he wasn’t so ridiculous…”
In Clinton Hill, passersby posing with an inflatable rat-Trump sang to a slightly different tune.
“I’m praying he’s going to lose,” said 37-year neighborhood resident Vanessa Lewis “We need a change.”
Closed polls, discarded ballots
Even before the almost 1,200 polling sites around the Big Apple opened, reports emerged regarding issues at some locations.
One Cobble Hill politico reported that a voting site at the neighborhood’s Public School 29 didn’t open for more than an hour because the station’s coordinator and the Republican representative never showed up, so police refused to open the doors.
“@BOENYC just received word the coordinator is a no show at PS 29 & the police won’t open up the site,” tweeted area District Leader Jesse Pierce just before 6 am. “Can someone help here?? Ps 29 No coordinator for the site and the signs for poll district numbers is wrong. No Republican rep here so cops won’t open.”
.@BOENYC just received word the coordinator is a no show at PS 29 & the police won’t open up the site. can someone help here?? Ps 29 No coordinator for the site and the signs for poll district numbers is wrong. No Republican rep here so cops won’t open
— Jesse Pierce 🚲 (@PierceJesse07) November 3, 2020
Just after 8 am, Pierce posted an update saying the coordinator never showed, but that the site was open after monitors arrived and deputized two poll worker as coordinators.
At East Williamsburg’s Cooper Park public housing complex, voters and poll workers were locked out of the community center polling site at Kingsland Avenue for more than an hour after the 6 am opening time, apparently because the police officer assigned to the facility failed to unlock the building, according to a local politician.
“For my understanding, the police officer who was responsible for opening up didn’t realize he had to unlock another door to open up the site,” said local District Leader Kristina Naplatarski. “Folks were lining up from 5:30 am, and the site wasn’t open until after 7 am and BOE staff couldn’t set up until after it was open.”
The site had issues during the June primary too, when poll workers mistakenly only provided ballots for the presidential primary and not state legislative contests, until Naplatarski helped officials find a box with the right voting documents, The City reported at the time.
Although many Brooklynites chose to vote by mail to avoid gathering in-person at the polls, one Crown Heights resident said she had to travel to a polling site after BOE discarded her mail-in ballot on a technicality.
A local resident named Marissa said she got her absentee ballot on Oct. 3 and sent it out the next day, but BOE officials contacted her nearly one month later on Oct. 31 to tell her that her absentee ballot was invalid because it was not in the ballot envelope. Marissa, however, said she closely followed the instructions.
“I put it in the envelope,” she told Brooklyn Paper.
The Brooklynite, who has been living with her father in Staten Island during the pandemic, decided to rent a car and drive across the Verrazzano Bridge to her Kings County polling site to cast her vote. Marissa — who rented the car because of the risk of catching COVID-19 on public transit — said the Board could be putting the lives of other voters at risk by invalidating their ballots on minor technicalities.
“I’m not high risk, but what if this is happening to somebody who’s elderly who might be worried about going to a polling place in person,” she said, adding that election officials could have at least alerted her of the problem sooner. “They had [the ballot] for 20-plus days and now you’re doing it Oct. 31. I [voted by mail] for the specific reason to not have to go to Crown Heights. It’s just unnecessary.”
The ballot hiccup is one of many hurdles BOE has faced this election season. In September, election officials had to re-mail thousands of absentee ballots after sending out mismatched ballot envelopes with strangers’ addresses on them, which the agency blamed on an upstate printing contractor.
Reports of voter harassment began Tuesday morning. Outside MS 88 in South Slope, an unmasked man with a Trump flag waving from his car screamed at voters entering and exiting the site at around 9:50 am. The man was heard telling voters to “go get some Vagisil,” and was filmed threatening voters with violence.
“There was a clear threat of physical violence,” said Kathy Park Price, a Park Slope resident working as a poll watcher.
According to Price, authorities on the scene did little to deescalate the situation and eventually had a “friendly conversation” with the heckler, who thanked police profusely before leaving on his own accord at around 11 am.
“It felt like they were there to protect him and not the democratic process … it was shocking to see,” Park Price said of the Police Department’s response, adding, “You can’t ignore the fact that once he got out of his car, threatened physical violence, was belligerent and harassed multiple voters, it was absolutely an act of voter intimidation.”
I’m a poll worker here in Brooklyn. Here’s the first case of voter intimidation I’ve witnessed: pic.twitter.com/sAXaWlb08v
— Hilary Shepherd (@TheHBS) November 3, 2020
The incident comes after the mayor assuaged voters on Monday that election officials would put an end to any voter intimidation.
“The Election Observer Corps is going to be out there in force — over 500 volunteers, lawyers and city officials, people who are giving their time of themselves to make sure the election is accurate, safe, no one is intimidated, no one is harassed,” de Blasio said.
The NYPD’s official Twitter account later tweeted that the responding officers found the vehicle to be at an appropriate distance.
“Upon investigation, the vehicle was an appropriate distance away. There was no interference with voting,” the Department said. The tweet made no mention of the man’s menacing, or his threat to put a voter “in the hospital.”
Was your absentee vote counted?
The Board set up an online tracker to let voters know if their absentee ballots have been processed. But thanks to a 72-hour lag, it may take days for voters to know if their vote counted of not, The City reported.
If you see your vote hasn’t been counted or was discarded for a technicality, you can vote in-person at the polling site assigned to you. You can also drop your filled-out absentee ballot at that site.
When will results be released?
Polls will be open until 9 pm Tuesday night. The Board will then begin reporting results from today’s vote as well as the early voting period, but there are more than a million mail-in absentee ballots requested that must be verified and counted.
For some contests — such as the hotly-contested 11th Congressional District race between Democratic Congressman Max Rose and Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis in Bay Ridge and Staten Island — the outcome might not be known for until two weeks, until all the ballots have been counted.
By 6 pm, early voting hotspot Kings Theatre in Flatbush had tallied just 526 votes for the day. As of about an hour earlier, a total of 2,161,043 voters had voted in-person today and during the nine days of early voting, according to BOE.
With reporting by Rose Adams, Kevin Duggan, Ben Verde, Lloyd Mitchell, and Caroline Ourso.
This is a developing story. Check back for continued Election Day coverage.