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Long IslandPolitics

Long Islanders cast ballots on first day of early voting in New York State

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday spoke about the advantages of early voting in the state. Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes

The first day of early voting in New York State history went smoothly on Long Island, except for computer glitches that caused delays after polls opened in Islip and North Babylon, said Suffolk and Nassau county elections officials.

“This is a lot easier,” said Terrance Hinds, 76, of Uniondale, after voting in the Recreation Center at Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead. “It’s my day off.”

Hinds starts work on Tuesdays at 7 a.m., so every Election Day he has had to plan ahead to make sure he votes shortly after polls open at 6 a.m.

“Now I don’t have to rush,” he said.

Early voting continues for the next eight days. About 5,400 people voted Saturday on Long Island, with a steady number of voters but no waiting at most of the 25 Long Island sites, elections officials said.

Dorothy Jacobs, 74, who drove 25 minutes Saturday from Island Park to Hempstead to vote, said, “There are not as many [polling] places as I’d like to see, but this is a good start.”

“We’ve caught up with the times,” Jacobs said, referring to how most states have had early voting for years.

Eileen Bruno, 67, of Deer Park, works in Ronkonkoma and every Election Day has to drive back to Deer Park to pick up her mother, Mary Hogan, 86, before heading to the polls. Early voting is more convenient, she said.

But Bruno said she was frustrated Saturday morning when she arrived at Babylon Town Hall Annex to find the voting machines were not working. So Bruno and Hogan had to travel to Dix Hills to vote there.

Suffolk elections Commissioner Nick LaLota said the computers in North Babylon had not been programmed correctly, so election workers had to wait for a programmer from the elections-equipment vendor, St. Louis-based KnowInk, to arrive. The elections board asked KnowInk to have workers in Suffolk on Saturday in case there were problems, LaLota said. The issue was resolved an hour and a half after polls opened, he said.

At Islip Town Hall Annex, the problem was Bluetooth connectivity between the computer tablets on which voters checked in and the devices that printed out ballots, he said. That problem was fixed by 10:45 a.m., 45 minutes after polls opened, and by about 11 a.m. the backlog of waiting voters had been cleared up, he said.

Ed Friedland, 46, of West Islip, was one of those waiting in Islip. He said when he left the polling site after 11 a.m., the printers were still only working sporadically.

“They were bringing out folding chairs for seniors to sit on because they were waiting so long,” said Friedland, who voted early because he works in Manhattan and sometimes gets to his polling site on Election Day just before closing, with little time to spare.

LaLota said one reason for the glitches is because the state had finalized rules and processes for early voting in the past few months, giving counties relatively little time to prepare.

Early voting is similar to Election Day voting, except that the ballots are printed on-site, said John Alberts, a Suffolk elections form processor who was working at the Dix Hills Fire Department polling place on Saturday.

Preprinted paper ballots aren’t practical because there are many overlapping boundaries in Suffolk for various types of election districts, and voters can cast ballots at any of the 10 early-voting sites in the county, Alberts said. 

Nassau has 15 early voting sites.

The State Legislature approved early voting in January. New York is the 39th state to allow early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mary Zeh of Huntington had worried about not voting this year because she will be in California on Election Day. She was relieved to find out that she could vote early.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Zeh said after casting her ballot in Dix Hills. “I believe this is going to increase the number of voters participating.”

Nassau elections Commissioner James Scheuerman said giving voters nine days to vote in addition to Election Day is designed to boost turnout, because of convenience and because it helps mitigate the effects bad weather can have on Election Day turnout.

Tracie Clemente-Brown, 54, of Uniondale, said she cast her ballot early in Hempstead so she doesn’t have to arrange her day on Nov. 5 around voting.

“I don’t have to think about it,” she said. “I’ve done my civic duty.”

EARLY VOTING SITES

  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday announced that voters can now find early-voting sites close to them by texting “Early Voting” to 81336.
  • To see a list of all voting sites in Suffolk, go to nwsdy.li/suffolk
  • To view sites in Nassau, go to Nassauvotes.com

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