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East Hampton Volunteers Mobilize to Get Out the Vote

Thu, 10/01/2020 - 11:51
While some people watch polls to see which presidential candidate is in the lead, the Monogram Shop in East Hampton looks to the number of Biden or Trump cups it sells as an indicator.
Durell Godfrey

An unusual summer in East Hampton Town has given way to an election campaign that is every bit as abnormal. With a persistent coronavirus pandemic and a small but concerning uptick in Covid-19 infections concentrated in several clusters in New York State, gone are the traditional in-person events like door-to-door canvassing and gatherings for fund-raising and enthusiasm-building. 

But with Election Day barely a month away, early voting closer still, and absentee voting already underway, the town's Republican and Democratic committees are intensifying their respective get-out-the-vote efforts for the campaigns for president, New York's First Congressional District, the State Senate, and the State Assembly. 

As in the 2018 midterm elections that resulted in a "blue wave" of Democratic victories, local enthusiasm for voter turnout appears greater on the Democratic side as President Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the election result or to a peaceful transition should he lose to former Vice President Joe Biden has galvanized the opposition. "I feel optimistic that Trump is going to lose, and lose big," said Cate Rogers, chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, "and we will have elections as we always have for the more than 200 years that we've been counting votes in this country."

The committee "has been getting a lot of volunteers who've never reached out before," Ms. Rogers said. "Over all, there is tremendous engagement in East Hampton. Our Democrats can't wait to go to the polls, basically."

The committee and volunteers are coordinating with New York for Biden, which among other efforts is leading phone banking and text banking targeting battleground states that change weekly based on the national campaign's call to action. "That group has amassed 36,000 volunteers," Ms. Rogers said. The committee and volunteers are also participating in phone bank campaigns for Nancy Goroff, the Democratic candidate to represent New York's First Congressional District, and Laura Ahearn, the Democrats' candidate for State Senate District 1. "We're out there on all fronts," Ms. Rogers said. 

Manny Vilar, chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, said that his committee is coordinating all efforts through Representative Lee Zeldin's re-election campaign, Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo's campaign for State Senate, and the Suffolk County Republican Committee. (Mr. Zeldin, who is seeking a fourth term in Congress, will face Ms. Goroff in the Nov. 3 election, and Mr. Palumbo will face Ms. Ahearn for the seat to be vacated by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who is retiring.) 

"This election season is very different," Mr. Vilar said on Monday. "We don't have the traditional house-to-house, knocking on doors, holding functions." The committee is working phone banks and distributing mail-in ballot applications and lawn signs, he said. 

An event in East Hampton that was to feature Mr. Zeldin, Representatives Peter King and Elise Stefanik, Mr. Palumbo, and Nick Langworthy, the State Republican Party chairman, has been postponed three times because of restrictions on mass gatherings, Mr. Vilar said. "We're active, but this is a very different campaign."

Along with Mr. Zeldin and Mr. Palumbo, East Hampton Republicans are working on behalf of President Trump and Heather Collins, the Republican and Conservative candidate who is challenging Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele in Assembly District 1, Mr. Vilar said.  

The chairman said that "no one is standing in front of the post office" distributing campaign literature for Republicans as in a typical year, but Ms. Rogers said that Democratic committee members and volunteers are "doing voter registration onsite in Montauk at the post office, and at CVS," in East Hampton, "led by the legendary, indefatigable Betty Mazur," of the committee. 

"We also are giving information on absentee ballots and early voting," Ms. Rogers said, "which we recommend to counteract the misinformation the Trump campaign is spreading, and the fear of how he will try to subvert the vote post-election." Many voters have decided to vote in person rather than by absentee ballot, she said. "If you can't, though, vote by absentee." 

Election Day is Nov. 3. Early voting happens at Windmill Village in East Hampton from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. Registered voters can also request an absentee ballot at



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