Election 2020: Brooklyn Polling Sites Running Relatively Smooth

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Brooklyn residents of all stripes headed to the polls on this nice but chilly and breezy election day. Unlike elections in previous years, most eligible voters already voted by absentee ballot or voted in-person early, and it showed today with the mostly short lines.

Janiece Robinson, the polling site coordinator at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church, 661 Linden Boulevard in East Flatbush appeared overwhelmed this morning as poll workers frantically rushed to secure the wifi setup for scanners and voting machines.

A long line forms outside of God’s Battalion Church in East Flatbush in the early morning hours because of downed
generators. Photo by Ariama C. Long

Robinson said someone from the early voting shift had left the generators on, which are the main source of power for the church. As a result, the polling place was about two hours behind with a long extended line of grumbling voters that had been standing outside in the cold since 5 a.m. in some cases. To add to that frustration all voters have to wait for an elevator to take them, a handful at a time, up or down to floors with scanners.  

That seemed to be the extent of the hangups though. In Brownsville, at PS 150, site coordinator Carrie Harris pointed out a broken scanner. In East New York, another coordinator had to explain to voters how to properly mark the ballot circles, but that was about it. 

The general consensus among most site coordinators across Central Brooklyn was that early voting made for much shorter lines so far. With the exception of long lines right as the polls opened, and one or two outliers with technical difficulties, there weren’t major wait times. 

A mix of Lubavitch Orthodox Jews and Blacks reflecting the neighborhood voted with little problems or wait at PS 161, 330 Crown Street in Crown Heights,

Things were orderly at this polling site on Crown Street in Crown Heights. Photo by Chaya Gurkov

The public school had no lines during the afternoon, and while it was busier during the morning it was running efficiently.

“Voting lines were running really smoothly today. The lines moved forward quickly and we were able to do everything in a socially distant manner,” said Board of Elections worker Shaun White.

According to White, voters and staff reported being really happy with the wait time and how COVID safe it was.

“It’s been great.” One voter exclaimed after leaving only a couple minutes after arriving, “I’d never expected such short wait lines.”

One woman before entering asked if there was disposable masks. The election poll worker at the door pointed her toward a box at the front.

People flowed in and out pretty consistently at sites in East Flatbush, Brownsville, Crown Heights, Bedstuy, East New York, and Canarsie.

Student Tajjae Maycock, an 18-year-old poll worker, said that while voting was a new experience for him this year and he was okay with participating, he was still unsure about how to feel about politics. “It seems like two sides of the same coin,” said Maycock about the presidential candidates. 

Heading south to Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, the polling places in and around downtown Brooklyn were not busy around 9 a.m. The same was true of almost everywhere between Sunset Park and Mill Basin throughout the morning and early afternoon. Workers and voters alike expressed happiness, optimism, and did not have complaints.

Back in Sunset Park, Edward F. Swartz, a 56-year-old Prospect Park South resident, helped check-in people at one of the tables inside and said that things were smooth at Sunset Park High School on Fourth Avenue and 34th Street at 9:30 a.m.

“Everything’s pretty quiet, pretty peaceful,” Swartz said about the polling place and compliance with COVID-19 public health interventions like wearing masks and keeping distance.

A masked woman stands outside a Sunset Park polling place at PS 896 on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. A group of poll workers from an Asian voting rights nonprofit stood outside to conduct their polls and provide any language assistance if necessary. Photo by Michael Eric Rosenthal

By about 10 a.m., the Sunset Park polling place at PS 896 had a consistent line inside, but the line did not extend to outside. A group of exit poll workers for a group called Defending Asian American Voting Rights waited outside to help any voters who needed language assistance and to get them to fill out the exit polling to help better represent Asian communities in the future. They said that there were no translation issues but that there was a shortage of poll workers helping on the tables, which is why the line was a little longer here.

Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bath Beach packed the most action as it is part of the borough’s only purple patch fielding competitive general election candidates from both the Democratic and Republican Partys.

This includes the Congressional race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island) and his challenger Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island); the state senate race where freshman incumbent State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Homecrest, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park, Midwood) is facing GOP Challenger Vito Bruno; and the open 64th Assembly District race in Bay Ridge and Staten Island where Democrat Brandon Patterson is facing Republican Michael Tannousis.

A man wheels an elderly voter into the polling location at the Brighton Beach Shorefront Y on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The poll worker said that the lines were constant but short. Photo by Michael Eric Rosenthal

At polling sites in these neighborhoods, supporters of candidates were standing on street corners by most polling places while flashing their candidate’s campaign paraphernalia. Everyone on each side even got along. 

The Gerritsen Beach polling location at PS 277 had a line out the door up until about 2 p.m., according to the poll worker outside, who also said that things still went well. Manhattan Beach was quieter too, but a steady stream of people were going into and out of the Brighton Beach Shorefront Y, and the poll worker there also said that things were fine.

KCP reporters Ariama C. Long, Chaya Gurkov and Michael Eric Rosenthal contributed to this story.

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