One and a half podcast episodes, a quarter of a water bottle, and some light stretching later, I finally voted in my first presidential election!
As a Rochestarian, I had the opportunity to vote in-person, unlike many of my fellow UR students. I chose to do so during early voting, mainly out of fear that my mail-in ballot could be disqualified.
To comply with social distancing regulations, early voting was opened to more people this year so as to spread out voters across multiple days. Instead of one mega-line on Nov. 3, there have been consistently long lines with wait times upwards of an hour at early voting locations throughout the county and country. So far, the United States has seen over 30 million people vote early and in person, including over 2 million in New York state.
Sounds encouraging, right? The problem is that Monroe County only has 12 early voting locations for this election, with 270 more polling sites that will be operating exclusively on Election Day. If nearly 300 polling sites are required for Election Day, why is the number of early voting sites so drastically low?
Thankfully, in New York State, early voting locations also have official absentee ballot dropboxes — unlike other states.
Texas’ Supreme Court ruled that Texas counties are only allowed to have one — that’s right, just one — drop-off location for absentee ballots. There are major cities, like Houston, that are entirely one county and have been forced to rely on one dropbox for up to 2 million people.
This is a textbook example of voter suppression, the sole intent being to make it harder for people to safely cast their ballots during the pandemic.
With concerns about the speed and reliability of the U.S. Postal Service, people want to hand in their absentee ballots in person rather than risk it not arriving in time to be counted. People deserve a safe and relatively easy way to cast their ballots. Creating situations with limited locations and long lines is clearly not providing them that option. Even if the voter suppression is unintentional, the effects may be the same.
In New York, early voting began on Saturday, Oct. 24 and ended on Sunday, Nov. 1. My polling location, Perinton Square Mall, had the most early voters (1,139) out of all of Monroe County on Saturday. It took me an hour and 13 minutes to wait in line, vote, and speed walk out of the building.
In a recent email from my town’s Democratic Committee, they said that the Edgerton Recreation Center and the City of Rochester Recreation Bureau had no lines. Other locations like the Perinton Square Mall, the Irondequoit Public Library, and the Gantt Recreation Center had incredibly long wait times.
The above screenshot of the mall should give you an idea of the line. I started at 1:07 p.m. at the end of the line. When I left at around 2:20 p.m. the line had only gotten longer.
Clearly, voting isn’t easy this year. But that’s no excuse not to do it. Vote for the people who can’t — because of voter suppression in their area, because they’re a few years too young, because they have a felony conviction that’s disenfranchised them, or for any other reason. Vote to show our country’s lawmakers that we value our right to do so, and that the will of the people is more powerful than their bare-faced attempts at suppression.
Some voting tips and reminders:
- If anyone questions you about your voter registration, your ID, your citizenship, or anything else, you’re under no obligation to answer them. Unless they’re an official poll worker or watcher, they can’t actually do anything.
- If you encounter an unofficial, illegal poll watcher, or any form of voter intimidation, you can call (866) OUR-VOTE, a nonpartisan election protection hotline.
- To check your voter registration status, go to “Can I Vote?” and choose the voter registration status option. You can also use this webpage to register to vote, find your polling place, and find other voting related information.
- If you’re planning on voting on Election Day and the address with which you’re registered to vote is the River Campus, your polling location is the Saunders Research Building at URMC.
- It’s illegal to take a photo of your ballot in New York state, so if you want to share proof of completing your civic duty, take a photo of your “I Voted” sticker instead!