Dispatch from an Early Voting Site in Astoria

The line at the early voting site at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Astoria on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Photo by Jose Cardoso

The line of voters waiting to vote on the gloomy overcast Wednesday afternoon snaked around the block outside of the Variety Boys & Girls Club located at 21-12 30th Road in Astoria, Queens, one of the 88 early voting sites in the city.

It was the fifth day of early voting and around the city, lines weren’t letting up. Since early voting began on Saturday, massive crowds have gathered to cast their vote in what is one of the most polarized, nasty and contested elections in modern American history. Outside of the Variety Boy & Girls Club, more than 100 waited to cast their ballots. 

But aside from the intensity of the political rancor, this year has been different for another reason: Voters up and down the line were all wearing masks. Historic numbers of early voters were coming out to cast their ballots despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The line was quiet with the occasional chit-chat, most of them were looking down at their phones.

A discarded “I Voted Early” stick outside of the early voting site in the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Astoria on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Photo by Jose Cardoso

“The lines were much quicker yesterday,” said one of the voters. He took pictures of the voting line with his camera.

At the exit of the voting site, there were green worn out picnic benches where poll workers were stealing a short break before heading inside to help with the crush of early voters.

At one point, an older man, with a glass bottle of Corona beer walked passed the line.

“Trump, Trump!” he chanted while pointing at his Donald Trump hat. But the voters paid no mind to him and carried on waiting.

Signs of the pandemic followed the early voters into the polls. 

“Follow the arrow! Follow the arrow,” said the poll worker by the entrance as he handed out the “I Voted Early” stickers. The roll was almost done.

The floor was covered with arrows and circles indicating where to go and where to stand to vote safely and socially distanced. The red, white and blue arrows directed the traffic. They were worn out from  being stepped on. The circles told people where they needed to stand. The voters were lined up in an orderly fashion, obeying the poll workers trying their best to maintain the crowd.

One poll worker, a man with glasses, helped an older lady register. They exchanged words as the older lady kept asking questions. The man was patient enough to help her out. He began to sweat slightly. His hand movements were quick. Eventually she received her ballot. She walked away unconcerned with her surroundings to go cast her vote.

“Ma’am, ma’am,” the poll worker shouted. “Ma’am, ma’am!” 

She’d left her Trolley Dolly cart behind without realizing it.