NEW YORK (AP) — In-person voting in the presidential election began across New York state with long lines building as polling stations were flooded Saturday with people who simply couldn't wait another moment to cast a ballot.
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.
In Kenmore, outside of Buffalo, the line to vote at the municipal building wrapped around the village green even before voting began at noon.
“I’ve been waiting four years to do this,” the first person in line, Jared Gressley, 48, told the Buffalo News.
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.
By KAREN MATTHEWS Associated Press