NEW YORK — Dozens of voters in Niagara County took advantage of the first day of early voting on Saturday.
The lines were lengthy outside the county's two early voting sites, including St. John De LeSalle Center in Niagara Falls and the Cornell Cooperate Extension 4-H Center building in Lockport.
The county’s 138,604 registered voters (including 51,669 Democrats and 46,790 Republicans) can continue early voting through Nov. 1.
Busy early voting sites in Niagara County mirrored a trend across New York state where long lines formed outside polling stations and many of the sites flooded with voters who were eager to cast early ballots.
The Associated Press reported that in some spots voters reported waiting for hours. The line to vote snaked for a quarter mile outside Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, which was being used as a polling location for the first time in its long history of hosting basketball and hockey games and concerts by world-renowned performers.
“I wanted to get it done now and I wanted to be part of the crowd on Day One, when it opened,” said Richard Mould, 46, who works in technology. "Because all my friends, my family who live out of state have all voted already.”
Four friends were waiting to vote with Sophie Hirsh on her 28th birthday. “We wanted to make sure to get our votes in as early as we can, and in person,” said Hirsh, who writes for a sustainability website. “My birthday was the first day of early voting so I thought it would be fun.”
Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where the NBA’s Nets play, also served as a polling place.
There were epic lines reported across the state, which has just 280 locations where people can vote early — far fewer than there will be on Election Day. Early voting will continue through Nov. 1, then break for a day before the final day of voting on Nov. 3.
The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reported that 5,376 Monroe County residents had voted by 1 p.m. “The democratic process is in full swing,” said Lisa Nicolay, the county’s Republican elections commissioner.
At least 51.8 million Americans have already cast ballots nationally, either by mail or in early in-person voting. That tally doesn’t yet include votes cast in New York.
New York’s nine-day early voting period is shorter than many other states. Californians starts voting 29 days before Election Day, while Virginia’s starts 45 days before.
This is the first time New Yorkers have been able to vote early in the presidential election.
The state launched early voting last year. Its biggest use so far was in the June primary, when more than 118,000 people voted early, or about 6.7% of the total votes cast.
People can also vote by absentee ballot this year. Officials are trying to avoid crowded polling places on Election Day because of the coronavirus pandemic.