Early Voting Strains New York City’s Capacity

early voting msg entering
Crowds of early voters surged into Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Donna Aceto

Early voting in New York State, an option that only became available last year, is proving to be popular in a high-turnout presidential election year in which the COVID-19 epidemic is also on the minds of those choosing to cast a ballot ahead of November 3.

According to state and city election officials, more than 420,000 voters — out of just under 13 million registered — turned out across the Empire State on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of early voting. In the city, almost 195,000 voters took advantage of the option.

Nearly 200,000 city residents turned out in first weekend, some waiting for hours


Voters lined up inside Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Reports from across the city indicate that the 88 early voting locations may not have been enough to accommodate the crush of those hoping to cast an early ballot, with some folks waiting in line for hours. On Saturday, for example, crowds stretched for blocks outside voting locations at Madison Square Garden and St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan Street at Houston.

The crowds were masked, but voters hoping to find social distancing inside by voting early — at least at the Garden — came up short.

Outside of the Garden, a variety of activists — from groups including Rise and Resist and the Hell’s Kitchen Democrats — were on hand to encourage the voters.

The crowd waiting in line outside St. Anthony’s on Sullivan Street at Houston on Saturday.Donna Aceto

As voters began casting ballots, RuckUS Vote 2020, an effort to encourage voter registration, voter planning, and vote(r) protection — launched by musicians including Laurie Anderson — staged several events across Manhattan. Outside the main branch of the Public Library on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street on Saturday, Anderson was joined by others, including choreographer Bill T. Jones.

According to the city Board of Elections, more than one million absentee ballots have been requested in New York City, representing about a fifth of the city’s 5.32 million registered voters.

Choreographer Bill T. Jones spoke during a RuckUS Vote 2020 event outside the Public Library on Saturday.Donna Aceto

As of Monday morning, more than 59 million Americans had already voted — by mail or through early in-person voting. An estimated 157.6 million voters were registered four years ago — with this year’s number expected to be higher — and more than 136,625,000 ballots were cast.

Laurie Anderson, one of the originators of RuckUS Vote 2020.Donna Aceto
Erik Bottcher, chief of staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and a candidate to succeed him, outside of Madison Square Garden as early voting began on Saturday.Donna Aceto
An early voter determined to stay safe on Saturday.Donna Aceto
Rise and Resist’s Jay W. Walker outside Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Mike Hisey is Drag Melania with Blowup Baby Trump outside Madison Square Garden.Donna Aceto
The RuckUS Vote 2020 event at the Public Library on Saturday included an anti-gun violence message.Donna Aceto
Two activists who were part of the RuckUS Vote 2020 event at the Public library.Donna Aceto
The message boiled down to this.Donna Aceto

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