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More than 55,000 across LI vote in first two days of early polling

For a second day, Long Islanders who voted ahead of the Nov. 3 election waited for hours to cast a ballot and talked about the importance of voting and what it meant to them. Credit: Newsday

This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, James Carbone, Vera Chinese, Lisa L. Colangelo, Scott Eidler, Michael O'Keeffe and David M. Schwartz. It was written by Eidler.

Thousands of Long Islanders, armed with foldable chairs and cups of coffee, formed long lines to cast ballots for president on Sunday as voters continued to overflow polling places on the second day of early voting.

The more than 24,000 voters on Sunday were among more than 55,000 Long Islanders who cast ballots in Nassau and Suffolk counties over the weekend, the first two days of nine scheduled for early voting before the Nov. 3 election.

Registered Democrats made up the preponderance of voters, outnumbering Republicans who turned out to cast their votes over the weekend , according to election board officials.

On Saturday, 12,839 Democrats and 4,347 Republicans went to the polls in Nassau. On the same day, 5,809 Democrats and 1,662 Republicans voted in Suffolk.

In Suffolk, a total of 20,319 voters cast ballots in-person over the weekend, Suffolk Republican Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota said. A total of 11,923 Democrats and 3,755 Republicans cast votes over those two days

Registered Democrats made up the preponderance of voters, outnumbering Republicans who turned out to cast their votes over the weekend, according to election board officials.

In Nassau, the final weekend tally was 35,334 voters, Nassau Democratic Elections Commissioner Jim Scheuerman said. A total of 20,686 Democrats cast ballots in-person in Nassau, compared to 7,532 Republicans, over the two-day period, according to Nassau data.

The largest share of the votes in Nassau came from voters between ages 55-64, representing 27%, or 9,631 of the early votes cast during the weekend.

The voters arrived Sunday to more than two dozen polling places — 15 in Nassau and 12 in Suffolk. New York adopted early voting in 2019 and the nine-day stretch this year is the first opportunity for New Yorkers to cast early votes in a presidential election.

Scenes of long lines with mask-wearing voters, some with children atop their parents' shoulders, played out from Lawrence to Southampton on Sunday. Many of the voters expressed concern that their ballot would not be counted on time if sent in the mail. Election officials have said mail-in ballots won't begin to be counted until a week after Election Day.

Before the Suffolk polls opened at 10 a.m., the line of hundreds of voters stretched more than a half-mile around the Babylon Town Hall Annex in North Babylon, with masked participants clutching coffees and sitting in folding chairs.

The first voters in line said they got there as early as 5:30 a.m.

"I think it’s important for everyone to be out here," said Michele Best-Tarrington of Deer Park, the second person in line. She’s a poll worker on Election Day. "I have to make sure my vote is cast."

More New Yorkers had voted early Saturday by 1 p.m. than during the entire 10-day window in the June primaries for president and other races, aides for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a telephone news conference on Sunday.

The lines were long because polling places are allowing fewer voters in at a time, as part of coronavirus crowd-curbing restrictions. State officials said they had not heard of any "hiccups."

"I heard that there was a tremendous number of people for early voting, which is very exciting," Cuomo said.

Election officials said that a total of 21,392 Nassau voters cast in-person votes on Saturday, while 9,617 people voted in-person in Suffolk the same day.

In Western Nassau, nearly 100 people lined up outside the Lawrence Yacht and Country Club by 10 a.m. waiting to vote.

Among them was Audrey Stewart of Valley Stream. Stewart, who arrived at 9:30 a.m., was out about an hour later.

"Everything went very quickly and smoothly," said Stewart, 51, a systems analyst. "We had gloves and hand sanitizers."

She says she voted for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, for "a host of different reasons."

"Just the way the whole pandemic is going, how it was handled, different issues," she said.

Alan Shapiro, 63, an accountant and comptroller from Lawrence, said he voted for Republicans "straight across," including for President Donald Trump.

"I don’t agree with how he talks. He talks too much. He tweets too much," Shapiro said. But he said, "I still think what he has done for the country is great."

On the East End, MaryAnn and Bill Tupper of Southampton were first in line to vote at the Stony Brook Southampton campus Sunday morning, arriving at 7:15 a.m. The couple had tried to vote on Saturday, but were not prepared for a two-hour wait in part because Bill, 77, uses a wheelchair. The couple bundled up in winter coats and endured the 43-degree morning to cast their ballots when the doors opened at 10.

"Everything is at odds," said MaryAnn Tupper, 72, declining to say who she voted for. "There is no longer, in my opinion, any civility in this election. The comments from both parties are ridiculous."

Seneca Bowen, treasurer of the Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal board of trustees, was also deterred by long lines Saturday. Back on Sunday, he brought two of his three sons, Xavier, 7, and Gave, 4, to witness the process as he cast a vote for the Biden/Harris ticket.

"Between COVID and everything else going on in the world, I wanted to get out here," he said. "Even though this is New York and we know it’s going to be blue anyway."

Ivan Bart, who works in the fashion industry and has a home in Southampton, changed his registration from New York City earlier this year to have a say in local elections. He said he preferred to vote in person to know that his vote would count.

Bart wore a mask that read "Vote for Change" and said he hopes the youth of America heeds that message.

"I feel like in the last several years there’s been a growing level of apathy. My message is whoever you vote for … your voice and your vote matters, and not just for every four years," he said.

At the American Legion Post 1273 in Wantagh, a line ran 100 people deep.

Stephen Giardina arrived to vote wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat, while his brother Anthony Giardina wore a blue "45" cap to support Trump, the 45th U.S. president.

The brothers said they did not have to wait long to vote.

"The culture is so messed up, so I’m voting Republican because I hope it will bring it back to the middle," said Anthony, 26, a member of the Wantagh Fire Department who also works in a bank.

Jane Magner of Massapequa, a retired Baldwin high school teacher, said she voted a straight Democratic ticket.

"I’m very motivated to stop the divisiveness and get the country back to where it belongs," she said.

The wait to vote at the Mastic Recreation Community Center was about three hours Sunday afternoon, with a line of several hundred people winding through residential streets.

Denise Reyes, 36, of Mastic said she only registered to vote in 2020 at the urging of her husband. A first-time voter, Reyes said she was happy to wait in line to vote for Trump.

"I want Trump back in office," she said. "He made a lot of difference."

Vietnam War veteran Bill Colonna, 65, of Shirley wore a Navy mask as he waited in line to cast a vote for Trump.

LaLota, the Suffolk Republican commissioner, said officials were ready for the week ahead. He said he had heard the Brookhaven Town Hall location had the longest wait time. "The voters are being patient; the voters are eager but they're also being patient."

Scheuerman, the Nassau Democratic commissioner, said his agency was working to lessen the long lines.

But he declared early voting, so far, to be a success. "Everyone is cooperating."

Early voting hours this week

Suffolk

Monday: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Tuesday: Noon-8 p.m.

Wednesday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Thursday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Friday, Noon-8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Nassau

Monday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Tuesday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Wednesday: 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Friday: 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

Saturday: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

To find an in-person early voting spot, go to newsday.com/votersguide

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