Credit: Getty Images/Grace Cary

Early voting begins in New York on Saturday and runs until Sunday, Nov. 1. Given COVID-19 and the expected surge in voting this cycle, you should consider this crucial new voting option if you can.

We are living through a pandemic that complicates the voting process, making it potentially dangerous for crowds to gather indoors as they wait to cast ballots. Meanwhile, thousands of Long Islanders are smartly taking advantage of expanded absentee voting, which allows voters to send their votes by mail because of the threat posed by COVID-19. That is a boon for public safety but it also means a surge of materials for the U.S. Postal Service and Long Island boards of elections to process.

Early voting helps take some of the strain off both sides of the system — the flood of absentee ballots, as well as the lines on Election Day. Every person who casts his or her vote this week means one more that will be tallied on Nov. 3 so the contours of the outcomes will be clearer to all.

The Nassau and Suffolk county election boards are taking smart precautions to keep people safe when they vote early, in person. That includes personal protective and sanitation equipment like masks and hand sanitizer, which will be available to voters. The early voting poll sites, which are very likely not the same as your usual polling precinct, are open longer hours and are sometimes in large spaces, meaning that there will be less of a likelihood of crowds.

This option, approved by state lawmakers last year, is a reminder of the importance of election reforms that expand opportunities to vote, and a great way to participate in the election while keeping everyone safe. Check the county board websites for locations and hours, and remember that registered voters can vote early in any site in their county.

— The editorial board

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