Rochesterians came out in full force across Monroe County for the first day of early voting to occur during a presidential election in New York state history. Many polling places resembled Election Day, with a constant stream of voters and lines with wait times stretching past the one-hour mark.
On the morning of Oct. 24, the David Gantt Community Center looked similar to other early voting sites in the county, with a socially-distanced line wrapping around the side of the building.
“I never had to wait in line to vote before in Rochester, so it was kinda fun to be in such a big group and see such a big turn out,” Shannon, a Brighton resident, said. “Today I feel like I’m a part of something.”
Charlene McKnight echoed this sentiment, saying, “never seen anything like this in Rochester, this is kinda like the first time we seen crowds in this capacity.”
Election inspectors agreed. “More people have been out than I have ever seen,” Barbra Anderson, an election inspector with 20 years’ experience, told the Campus Times. “It’s nonstop since 9:00 [this morning], people have been lined up since we came in at 7:30.”
Countywide, over 84,000 people have cast their ballot in the first week of early voting in Monroe County, setting a new record.
Voters cited many reasons as to why they came out early instead of waiting until Election Day. “My main motivation is coronavirus, trying to get ahead of it, not trying to catch it,” Terrel Brock told the CT. “No telling who could come out on Nov. 3 that might not be wearing a mask.”
Many voters could be seen coming into early voting centers with absentee ballots, distrustful of USPS’s ability to get their ballot in on time. While not bringing an absentee ballot himself, Ben Shafer cited his desire to “make sure I could get my vote in, in-person, and make sure it counted.”
After casting their vote and gaining the classic “I Voted” sticker, many celebrated by taking a photo with a cardboard cutout of Fredrick Douglass. Myra Pelz and Tiffany Moore-Corteville, representatives of the Rochester metro area League of Women Voters, brought the cardboard Douglass. “The pictures and the hashtag is really meant to drum up enthusiasm for the voting process,” Tiffany said.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan civic group aimed at encouraging informed and active participation in government, according to its website.
Voters reacted positively to the League’s efforts. “It’s fun, voting is sort of our voice in government, so doing whatever we can to encourage it is a good thing,” Raul Rodriguez said after getting his photo taken. Myra and Tiffany also handed out free water and snacks to voters waiting in line. “We just want people to be engaged with the political process and vote, that’s why we are here, to show our appreciation,” Myra said.
“It feels great, I am excited, I want change,” Melissa Coleman, a first-time voter, told the CT after casting her ballot and celebrating with a picture next to Douglass. “I hope my vote tips the voting panel over.”
“I [voted] for my great aunt, [who] died of COVID[-19],” Coleman said. “I know she would have been in the line too.”
As early voting comes to a close in New York on Nov. 1, all eyes are pinned on Nov. 3, but this year many, including Anderson, believe that we may have a quiet election day. “I think come Nov. 3 we won’t have a lot, because everyone got out here today to vote, which is excellent.”
“I’m glad to see people civically engaged, that’s what we want people to do at every election,” Robert Kalnitz said. “We need to do it every time, to have the same motivation at the local level.”