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Early Voting 'Turnout Huge' on South Fork

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 14:59

Both parties say enthusiasm is cause for optimism

The line to vote snaked from the Stony Brook Southampton gym down to the campus's main parking lot on Tuesday afternoon.
Jennifer Landes

Since Saturday, when New York State's early voting period began, hundreds of voters have been lining up daily to cast their ballots at the East Hampton polling site at Windmill Village on Accabonac Road, and the Stony Brook University Southampton campus, the only two sites for early voting on the South Fork. As of Monday, 2,468 votes had been cast in East Hampton and 2,363 in Southampton, according to the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

"Turnout has been huge," Shirley Wornstaff, the election coordinator at Windmill Village, said on Tuesday. Those who showed up to vote on the first day had to endure the longest wait thus far, up to three hours, she said, but subsequent days have also been "extremely busy." The small size of the room in which voting takes place has made it hard to accommodate the crowds expeditiously, she said, and pandemic-related safety precautions have also added a slight delay -- the pens used to mark ballots, and the surface on which they are filled out are sanitized between each voter. On Monday, in an effort to speed up the process, Ms. Wornstaff brought in more poll workers to check voter registrations, and increased the number of privacy booths so that more people could vote at the same time.

Early voting continues at Windmill Village and at the Stony Brook University Southampton Campus today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., tomorrow from noon until 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Voting on Election Day, which is Tuesday, will happen at regular polling places from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (A box listing those polling places appears elsewhere in today's paper.) Those unsure of where to vote can call the county board of elections at 631-852-4500 or visit

For voters at Windmill Village on Tuesday, the reasons for casting a ballot prior to Election Day ranged from the practical to the apocalyptic. "I was worried there would be long lines on Tuesday," said Stephen Bock, while Barbara Maslen said that, given how unpredictable 2020 has been, she didn't want to take the risk of waiting. "I feel like anything can happen between now and then," she said. "Plus, I just wanted to get out of the house."

Kathy Byrnes, a manager of Windmill Village who has been standing at the entrance of the complex and guiding people to the polling place, said she has detected a clear desire among early voters to vote against the Republican presidential candidate, President Donald J. Trump. "I tell them you might have to wait two or three hours, and the response I've gotten from everybody is, 'I've been waiting four years,' " she said. At least one voter, however, was sporting a pro-Trump sweatshirt that day.

Recent data from the Suffolk County Board of Elections indicate a surge in Democratic voters in the county, according to Cate Rogers, the chairwoman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee. The board of elections found a 17 percent increase in new Democratic registrations in the past eight months, seven times more than new Republican registrations, she noted in a press release.

There are just over 1.02 million registered voters in Suffolk County; 19,579 of them in East Hampton Town and 42,889 in Southampton Town, according to the board of elections.

Currently, 48 percent of all registered voters in East Hampton are registered as Democrats, Ms. Rogers said. 

Despite Ms. Rogers's optimism, Manny Vilar, the chairman of the East Hampton Republican Party, predicted that Suffolk County voters will once again back Mr. Trump. "I believe [he] is going to win the county, just like the last presidential election; we won solidly," he said. "I've been involved in a lot of the various Trump rallies throughout the county and enthusiasm is very high." Mr. Vilar said that enthusiasm will also help down-ballot Republicans such as Representative Lee Zeldin, who is running for re-election against Nancy Goroff, the Democratic candidate.

In the 2016 election, President Trump garnered 350,570 votes to Hillary Clinton's 303,951 in Suffolk County. Of the 954,622 people registered to vote in the county that year, 70.94 percent cast ballots in the presidential election.

In 2018, Mr. Zeldin won his bid for re-election with 139,027 votes. His Democratic challenger, Perry Gershon, received 127,991 votes. There were 475,448 registered to vote in the First Congressional District in 2018; 56.79 percent did so.

This year, the Suffolk County Board of Elections has sent out 191,220 absentee ballots, 5,357 of them to East Hampton Town voters and 10,392 to Southampton voters.

In addition to the contests for president, vice president, and representative, several other races for elected office are on Tuesday's ballot here. On the New York State level, Laura Ahearn, a Democrat who is also running on the Protect the Taxpayer line, faces Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate, in the First Senatorial District. Each hopes to succeed State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who is retiring. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the Democratic and Independence Party incumbent, hopes to withstand a challenge from Heather Collins, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate.

Suffolk County voters will also choose eight from among 12 candidates for Supreme Court justice in the 10th Judicial District, and two each for County Court judge and Family Court judge. Two propositions are on the ballot here as well. The first would lengthen the term of office for county legislators. The second would allow the county to avoid repaying money it borrowed from a sewer-tax reserve fund.

With Reporting by Christopher Walsh, Jennifer Landes, and Carissa Katz




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