Crowded streets as early voting begins

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NEW YORK (AP) — In-person voting in the presidential election began across New York state on Saturday at polling locations including Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where the NBA’s Nets play.

A line of several hundred people wound around the block at the Garden, in pre-coronavirus times the site of basketball and hockey games as well as concerts by world-renowned performers. Voters said they were happy to get their ballots in as early as possible.

“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.”

(AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Elsewhere in New York City, voters waited in block-long lines outside early voting locations. Statewide, there are about 280 locations where people will be able to cast their vote. Early voting will continue through Nov. 1, then break for a day before Election Day on Nov. 3.

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.

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