New Yorkers brave long lines to cast early votes in US presidential election

·4-min read

Voters in New York have braved long lines to cast their ballots early for next week’s presidential election. The pandemic and the George Floyd protests were on the minds of most people.

Lines of people snaked around several blocks in Park Slope, an upscale neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday. It was the fourth day that voters could vote early and in-person.

They brought books, music, and their friends to pass the time.

“I’ve been waiting almost two hours and I just want to avoid coming back on Election Day, lines are probably going to be much worse,” 37-year-old finance worker Etienne tells RFI.

More than 300,000 New Yorkers have already cast their ballots since Sunday when early voting began, often braving long delays.

US global standing

“I always vote. This election is super meaningful to me as a vote against Trump," said Etienne, who blames the president for eroding the United States' image on the global stage.

"It’s quite embarrassing to have a leader like him representing our people. Another four years under Trump...I can’t even imagine that. It wouldn’t be great for our country and the world. But hopefully we can move on from this mess.”

The city's mayor Bill de Blasio was also spotted in the long queues, which he blamed on the incompetence of the state's Board of Elections.

Many voters wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart, a reminder of the challenge of holding this election in the middle of a pandemic.

Equality concerns

Despite the coronavirus, friends Dyana Nokes and Diana McCorey came out to ensure a Democrat win next Tuesday.

"I’m voting for Biden and Harris and I’ll be voting Democratic down the line," Nokes tells RFI.

The 31-year-old was among thousands of workers to have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus economic downturn, forcing her to move back in with her parents.

"I care about equality. I think right now there is just such a divide in our beliefs and what we care about and that has been exacerbated by this president. Human rights at this moment are at stake," Nokes said.

For McCorey, a 31-year-old screenwriter, healthcare and immigration top her main concerns.

"I think the way we treat immigrants in this country is absolutely horrendous and that needs to stop. We need to care more about the black experience in this country, that’s been absolutely horrible. Trump doesn’t even acknowledge that it’s a problem," she said.

Racial reckoning

The United States has been gripped by a reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd in May, which sparked months of protests.

"I think it would be the biggest issue in this election. Because there is a pandemic, it seems like it’s muddied the waters. But it's also exacerbated the racial issue because people here who are not white and affluent are experiencing the pandemic in a much more extreme way than the typical population of Park Slope, for instance, which tends to be whiter and richer," McCorey commented.

Covid-19 provided further evidence of the racial divide in the US, with reports showing that African Americans died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people.

There are however pro-Trump pockets in New York, in places like Staten Island and in several neighbourhoods of Queens and some parts of Brooklyn. Trump is popular for his pro-Israel policies and the city's main police union has endorsed him.

Landslide victory

But come election day, all pollsters expect the Republican to be once again overwhelmingly rejected by his hometown, after 79 percent of New York voters opted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

However with Trump threatening to contest an election defeat, voters are counting on a landslide for Joe Biden that leaves no doubt about the winner.

"I hope that many of us are voting because we know it needs to be a landslide," Sarah Creider, a teacher and race relations expert tells RFI.

“I think we are headed in a terrifying and frightening direction if we don’t wake up. I don’t know what’s going to happen but regardless of what happens it is a fight that is going to have to continue.”

Listen to Sarah Creider's full interview on the US quest for racial equality later this week