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A largely issue-free first day of early voting across Long Island

Voters fill out ballots at Huntington Public Library

Voters fill out ballots at Huntington Public Library in Huntington Station on Saturday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Island elections officials reported a largely problem-free first day of early voting Saturday, without the long lines of last year’s high-turnout presidential election.

There were more than five times fewer voters Saturday than on the first day of early voting last October, according to preliminary counts: 1,896 in Suffolk, compared with 9,617 on Oct. 24, 2020, and 3,786 in Nassau, compared with 21,451 last year, said Suffolk County Republican Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota and James Scheuerman, the Democratic elections commissioner for Nassau. Turnout is always significantly lower in nonpresidential-election years, they said.

Key local races this year include those for Nassau county executive, district attorneys in Nassau and Suffolk, and for town supervisors.

Early voting runs through Oct. 31, with hours varying by the date. There are 17 sites in Nassau and 12 in Suffolk.

Karen Dwyer, 56, of Huntington, said she waited for nearly three hours last year at the Huntington Public Library in Huntington Station, where there was no wait on Saturday.

"I think voting is important, and I want to be a role model so that people will support early voting," she said.

Thomas D’Ambrosio, 57, of Huntington Station, said he appreciated being able to vote early while running other errands.

"It’s important to show up so politicians remain interested in your needs," he said.

Suzanne Blakitis, 67, a retired customer service manager from Merrick, said early voting — which debuted in New York in 2019 — "makes it so much easier. If you’re not available on November 2 for whatever reason, you have options."

And with multiple days for early voting, "there’s no pressure," she said. "If it was crowded, you could turn around and come back tomorrow."

Blakitis said that after she encountered no line when voting Saturday at the Freeport Recreation Center, "I texted all my friends and neighbors telling them, ‘It’s empty. Come.’"

Nina Tribble, 65, of Lakeview, said she was happy to be able to vote so easily ahead of time when residents of many states face an increasing array of restrictions on voting that include reduced hours for early voting, banning or greatly limiting ballot drop boxes, banning the automatic mailing of absentee ballots, and prohibiting giving out water to voters waiting in line.

"As a Black individual, I’m exercising my right to vote," Tribble said. "I’m pleased to be in New York, because you know what happened nationwide. The right to vote is being taken away as we speak, in many states. And they’re going back to their Jim Crow laws. They do not want democracy."

James White, 78, a retired financial manager from Freeport, said voting in local elections is vital, because local officials control where local tax dollars go, such as for street-cleaning, garbage pickup and other services.

Robert Mandi, 62, of West Hempstead, a delivery-service manager who was voting at the West Hempstead library, said "it’s your own fault" if you don’t vote in local elections and then don’t like who wins.

"You’ve got to speak your voice," he said.

Meanwhile, a temporary poll worker at the early voting site at Brookhaven Town Hall was barred from future polling-place duties after complaints that he was pointing at an oval next to incumbent Democratic District Attorney Tim Sini’s name when instructing voters how to fill out a ballot.

Democratic Elections Commissioner Anita Katz said that no matter what the man’s intent was, poll workers "are not supposed to point to a candidate" on a ballot to avoid the perception of bias.

LaLota said the commission would investigate the incident and "if there’s criminal intent, there could be criminal charges."

With John Asbury

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