PRIMARY DAY: New Yorkers head to polls with caution during COVID-19 pandemic

A warning sign during the primary vote on June 23, 2020 at I.S. 70 in Chelsea. (Photo by Mark Hallum)


One of the most unusual elections in New York City history reaches its climax Tuesday as residents head to the polls for the final day of primary voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday’s contest includes the long-delayed New York presidential primary; regardless of who wins it, former Vice President Joe Biden had clinched the Democratic nomination for president weeks ago. There’s also a host of big legislative races for Congressional, state Senate and Assembly seats. Queens residents are also voting in a primary for Queens borough president.

But in the backdrop of it all has been the coronavirus pandemic that gripped the city back in March. Voters were encouraged to participate in this election by absentee ballot to avoid coming into contact with crowds at polling sites. Those opting to vote in person, either at early voting locations or at their regular polling places today, were urged to wear a mask and exercise caution to avoid infection.

The turnout was light at I.S. 70 in Chelsea, but voters said they felt safe in casting their votes, as well as motivated. Some of the issues important to the voters we spoke to there included reproductive rights, housing, transgender matters and racial justice.

Lynn Davis said she came to the polls early to beat the heat on an expected hot June day. She felt comfort knowing her polling site was as protected as it could be, with poll workers wearing masks, social distancing in practice and hand sanitizer available.

She also noted that she opted to vote in person because her applied for an absentee ballot — but never received one.

“I filed for an absentee ballot and never got it, that’s a whole other issue,” Davis said. “They’ve got to get their acts together with the absentee ballots, especially with the presidential election.”

At nearby P.S. 33, voter Christopher Barton expressed the same sense of security over the safety at his polling site, though he noted that the turnout seemed less crowded than he anticipated. He explained that the recent Black Lives Matter protests have raised his awareness of making his own voice heard.

“I’m a Bernie [Sanders] supporter, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more politically aware and active,” he said, “and definitely, the Black Lives Matter protests have heightened my awareness of the importance of my voice too. And I despise the president and the Republican Party, and I want to do everything I can to remove them from power.”

The polls are open until 9 p.m. tonight. Check back with later for further primary coverage.

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