With early voting getting under way across New York state last Saturday, hundreds of people lined up outside the Lawrence Yacht & Country Club, waiting as long as three hours to cast ballots.
Early voting was introduced in the state last year as part of a series of reforms intended to create more access to voting for people who struggle to get to the polls on Election Day.
A total of 211,898 people voted at sites across the state on Saturday — 1.7 percent of the roughly 13 million registered New York voters, according to the state Board of Elections. The turnout wasn’t far below the total for the entire nine-day early-voting period in 2019, when 256,251 New Yorkers voted. In Nassau County, 12,839 Democrats and 4,347 Republicans voted on Saturday, according to data from the county’s Board of Elections.
The Lawrence club was designated one of 15 early-voting locations in the county. A line began to form long before the polls opened at 9 a.m.
Hewlett resident Tricia Ortiz said that she got to the country club before 9, but still wasn’t able to cast her vote. “I was here by 8:40 a.m., and about 400 people were already in line already,” Ortiz wrote in an email. “We had to leave as the doors did not open at 9 and disputes began happening.”
Gregory Wright, of Atlantic Beach, said he, too, arrived before 9. “Shortly after the doors opened, they announced one machine was down, and the line circled a couple times around the parking lot,” Wright wrote on Facebook. “At 9:30, we left since we decided that the line was far too long to wait it out if there were only two working machines. Despite this, I was happy to see so many people out voting.”
Lawrence resident Kathryn Mennella arrived at the club around 10, and waited nearly three hours to vote. “Everything was up and running and it was smooth sailing when I got there,” she said. “People were very Covid aware, masks were worn and social was distancing taking place inside. It was run like a well-oiled machine.”
Residents verified their voter registration on iPads, which served as electronic poll books and will replace physical poll books at voting locations. Poll inspectors assist voters in signing their names and confirming their identities using a stylus. Once a signature is approved, the poll inspector prints a ballot.
The line at the country club was shorter on Sunday. Elena Feygin said that she waited less than an hour to vote. “I just spent less than 35 minutes voting in Lawrence,” she said. “It was very efficient and speedy. The line was constantly moving.”
Some Five Towners opted to use other early voting sites to cut down on their wait time. Hewlett resident Pam Darby said she went to the Garden City location, at St. Paul’s Field House on Stewart Avenue. “There was just a 20-minute line at Garden City,” Darby posted on Facebook. “The parking lot was full but that was because of sports events in the complex, not voting. The line moved quickly and I was done within a half hour.”
The nine-day early voting schedule offers 83 hours of access — 60 are required by law — including evenings and weekends through Sunday. Registered voters may cast ballots at any county locations, but if they do not, they must vote at their regular polling place on Nov. 3.