Capital Region voters speak out on Election Day

Our reporters are at polling places across the Capital Region talking to voters. The latest from the
Voters at Malta Ridge Fire Department, Nov. 8, 2016.
Voters at Malta Ridge Fire Department, Nov. 8, 2016.

Our reporters are at polling places across the Capital Region talking to voters. The latest from the field:

5:14 p.m. — Picking "the lesser of the evils" at the Century Club in Amsterdam

Three Amsterdam districts vote at the Century Club on Guy Park Avenue, and by 4:30 p.m., 950 people had cast ballots.

“People seem to be anxious to vote,” said election official Dorothy Domkowski. “It was very busy in the morning; we expect it to be busy from 6 until 9.”

Anna Rodriguez, 60, was one of the anxious voters.

“I wasn’t too happy with the candidates. I am so glad it’s almost over,” Rodriguez said. “All the bashing back and forth – it’s really been a mess, the whole campaign, a big mess.”

Rodriguez kept her choice to herself. James Piurek, 50, shared his vote.

“Hillary,” he said. “I just couldn’t vote for Trump. There’s no way.”

Margaret Sharp shared her lack of confidence in both the Democrat and Republican candidates.

“It has been a very difficult election,” said the 67-year-old Sharp. “I don’t feel either of the candidates are particularly qualified. I picked the lesser of the evils – I don’t want to tell you which one.”

—Jeff Wilkin

3:37 p.m. — Three times the normal voting volume in Malta

By mid-afternoon, 3,307 people had voted at the Milton Community Center on North Line Road.

Election inspector Suzanne Canell said the number was running three times what the polling place, which votes 9 Milton districts, usually gets.

“I’m happy to see it,” said Barbara Kerr, a town councilwoman, talking to a friend in the center’s crowded parking lot. “This election has really stirred people up. They’re going to get out and get their voices heard.”

—Jeff Wilkin

2:35 p.m. — Voting lines pick up in Malta

A steady stream of cars and people were part of the afternoon scene at the Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.

Shortly after 2 p.m., 877 people had turned out, a big showing for just two town districts.

Election inspector Bernadette Putnam said the big rush would begin at about 5:30 p.m.

“By 6 o’clock, there will be lines out the door,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, this is the busiest I’ve seen it in a long time.”

Some people talked about the election process.

“The process is good, the choices suck,” said one man, walking briskly out of the fire station.

Mary Ann Andrukiewicz was more thoughtful.

“I’m relieved but I’m also scared,” she said. “I don’t know if either candidate is going to take the country forward.”

Andrukiewicz was going with Clinton.

“There’s a part of me, before I die, would like to see a woman in the presidency,” she said.

—Jeff Wilkin

2:05 p.m. — Ziti lunch gives voters a break from election

Is all of this election talk making you hungry? The folks at St. Joseph’s Church at 600 State Street may have just what you are looking for: a homemade Italian meal.

The church is hosting its 11th annual Election Day Ziti Dinner today, serving up ziti and meatballs, salad and cake for just $8.

Around a dozen volunteers scuttled around each other inside the church’s basement kitchen over the lunch hours – some worked on packing take out meals, while others served up visitors at the tables filling the room. A massive pot of sauce and meatballs simmered gradually over a pair of stove burners.

Donald Penta, the church sacristan, said the big rush usually happens around 4 or 5 p.m. But a steady stream of eaters came in over the lunch hour – at about the same pace that voters arrived at their polling places earlier this morning.

“Barbara will take good care of you,” Penta said, motioning toward Barbara Gillooley, who has been a member of the church where she was baptized for over 75 years.

“The food’s good,” Gillooley promised. “Where can you get a meal for eight dollars.”

And there’s plenty for leftovers. The dinner organizers prepared 900 meatballs and 10 pounds of sausage and said diners are welcome to as much as they want. The church uses the dinner as a fundraiser, but Penta said it’s first mission is to serve as an opportunity for parishioners to work together.

But don’t plan on striking up too many political conversations. Diners during the lunch hour were more interested in eating their meal than discussing their electoral decisions.

“I think I would rather have my lunch and not talk about the election,” one woman said as she ate her salad.

The hungry diners, however, can’t keep the election entirely away. Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a state senate candidate, stopped by with a staffer earlier. Penta said Congressman Paul Tonko usually drops by at some point too.

To place a pick-up order call 518-225-4626 or drop by anytime before 7 p.m. for a meal.

—Zachary Matson

2 p.m. — A Malta chili feast

Kristan Gottmann and Tim Dunn stopped by the Malta Ridge United Methodist Church for the 11th annual chili feast – a tradition for many after the vote.

For Gottmann, the choice was Trump.

“I think he’s a better choice than Hillary,” Gottmann said. “I like his stand on the borders and jobs.”

Dunn did not disclose his choice, but said neither of the major party candidates received his support.

Both Gottmann and Dunn said there were crowds at their polling places – Malta Ridge Fire Department and the Malta Communuty Center, respectively. And they were glad to see the election was bringing out so many people.

—Jeff Wilkin

12:05 p.m. — Schenectady City Council candidates visiting polling places this afternoon

Not every 25-year-old will get to see their name on the ballot today. But in Schenectady, City Council candidate Alex Jurczynski, who has Schenectady politics in the blood, saw just that.

“It’s definitely pretty neat being on the same ballot as the presidential candidates,” Jurczynski said after he voted at Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church.

Jurczynski and his dad, former Schenectady Mayor Al Jurczynski, planned to stop at all of the city’s 35 polling places before the day was over, greeting voters and handing out cookies to poll workers.

“My days in the political arena are behind me,” Al Jurczynski said. “If on the Council, Alex will be a tremendous asset not just for the City Council but for the city.”

Across the region, candidates took time to cast the one vote they actually control amid busy schedules in the final get-out-the-vote push on election day. Two hours before the Jurczynskis stopped at the Eastern Parkway church, a neighbor and his opponent Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas stopped at the same polling place to cast her ballot.

She said she planned to deliver pizza to polling places with Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and make a final push on the phones later in the day. Over the weekend, Zalewski-Wildzunas said she walked an average of seven miles knocking on doors in neighborhoods across the city.

“I’m surprised at how many people like to be engaged in conversation, and I like to hear what’s important to them, what’s important on their street and in their backyard,” she said.

Both of the City Council candidates pointed to high property taxes as the top concern they have heard from residents, and they both called tax relief their main priority. Zalewski-Wildzunas highlighted turning empty houses back into tax-generating homes; Jurczynski, who works as a substitute teacher, said he wants to develop more youth programs in the city.

At Schalmont High School in Rotterdam, state Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, arrived at the polling place with his wife, Joelle, daughter and two sons and parents. Amedore thanked the poll workers after he deposited ballot. He said he planned to visit all five counties in his geographically-large senate district.

His opponent Sara Niccoli, of Palatine, planned to vote this afternoon in Fort Plain.

Amedore also cited the cost of living and affordability of property and taxes as the main concern he hears from voters and his top legislative priority. Amedore said he “most certainly” voted for Donald Trump for president.

“New York is not affordable,” he said outside the polling place. “I hear it time and time again: the biggest burden is the property tax burden.”

—Zachary Matson

11:20 a.m. — Yes, journalists vote too

Teachout votes in Clinton Corners

The race for the 19th New York Congressional District between Democrat Zephyr Teachout and Republican John Faso is expected to be tight, and has been making national headlines.

Zephyr Teachout, a Democrat running for Congress, casts a ballot at a polling location set up in the East Clinton Fire District in Clinton Corners, N.Y., on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016.

9:55 a.m. — George Amedore at the polls

Not quite rush hour voting yet in Rotterdam

In Rotterdam, about 250 people had voted by 8:30 a.m. Election official Lorraine Kwiatkowski said about a dozen people were outside the church waiting at 5:40 a.m. — 20 minutes before the polls opened. “Usually, our busiest time is after school and after 7 p.m.,” Kwaitkowski said.

Dawn Kot, 54, and Matthew Laraway, 33, were among the early voters.

Kot went for Trump. “I just can’t trust her,” she said of Clinton. Kot also didn’t like the campaign. “It got nasty, and I don’t like that,” she said.

Laraway also voted for the Republican. “His viewpoints stand more with my own,” he said.

Nick Pangburn, 34, was at Queen of Peace with his wife Whitney and daughter Zoe, 3. Pangburn said today was his first presidential vote. “Every vote might count this time,” he said. “I’ve never cared to get involved before, I think this is in important election. It’s going to decide where the world goes.”

There was one early winner in Rotterdam. The church Altar Rosary Society is sponsoring its annual bake sale, and business was booming.

“It’s going fabulous early,” said sale chairwoman Shirley Milano. “We had four carts filled and now we’re down to two. It’s been nonstop.”

—Jeff Wilkin

Niskayuna heads to the polls

Jocelyn McKinney, 55, of Niskayuna, voted on Nov. 8, 2016.

At the Brookdale Senior Living polling place, Jocelyn McKinney, 55, of Niskayuna, was in the Clinton camp.

“I’m very excited and I wanted to make sure nothing stopped me from voting,” McKinney said. “I would have been here at hour earlier, but I had to feed my animals and take my dog for a walk.”

Like other voters, McKinney said she’s glad the race for the White House is coming to an end. She has not liked the contentious parts of the campaign. “It’s caused me a lot of stress, a lot of sadness,” she said. “I hate to see the country so divided.”

By 7:30 a.m., 66 people had voted at Brookdale. Nicole Helstowski, 38, of Niskayuna, also brought her daughters to the polls. “They came to watch, see the process,” Helstowski said of daughters Miranda, 4, and Lara, 8. “And this fits in with my work schedule today.”

“Everybody will be relieved when it’s over,” added Helstowski, who teaches nursing at Excelsior College in Albany. “It’s just been drawn out.”

Her choice for president was Gary Johnson.

“I don’t like either candidate from the regular parties,” she said, explaining her vote. Johnson and Jill Stein complete the quartet of candidates running for the presidency. “I can sleep at night with my vote.”

—Jeff Wilkin

Voting in Schenectady, then hopping a plane to Denver

Patrick Cummings, 63, and wife Donna Phillips, 65, were flying to Denver to visit a sick relative at 11:30 a.m. “We scheduled our flight so we could be here to vote,” Phillips said, as dawn broke and light began to appear in the sky. “I don’t think we’ve missed an election in our lifetimes. It’s always important to vote.”

Cummings didn’t say for whom he cast his vote — at least, not by name.

“She’ll make a wonderful president,” he said.

Arianne Gardner walked into the school — daughters Vivian, 2, and Veronica, 4, in hand — around 6:30 a.m.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom, three boys at home, my husband’s asleep so I’m out with the two little girls,” Gardner said. “The kids are up early so I have to get my day started. I’m very busy.”

Gardner said she could not vote for Clinton.

“I’m very pro-life,” she said, adding that some relief comes knowing that the election process is almost over.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” Gardner said. “You’re finally going to see the results.”

—Jeff Wilkin

8:10 a.m. — Voter resources abound

Need to find your polling place or find your registration status? Here’s more information.

Having trouble at your polling place? Contact your local Board of Elections. Here’s a list of contact information.

Want to get to know the local candidates, or the Daily Gazette Editorial Board’s advice on who to vote for? See our voter’s guide.

Need motivation to get to the polls? Find out how your vote makes an impact.

Still undecided in the presidential race? Browse through our presidential election archives.

Looking for a cute pick-me-up? Kids voting in Lincoln Elementary’s mock elections is pretty adorable.

—Erin K. O’Neill

7:01 a.m. — First hour, no waiting in Schenectady

Polls officials at Schenectady High School say about 150 people have voted during the first hour. There were no lines, no waiting, as people filled out ballots at 13 stations and used three scanners to record their votes.

—Jeff Wilkin

Schenectady residents Rick Selke and Jeanne Walsh wait in the morning darkness for the polls to open at Schenectady High School, Nov. 8, 2016. The first two voters at the high school voted for Donald Trump.

6:40 a.m. — With polls open, early birds start voting

Rick Selke was first.

The 59-year-old Schenectady man was waiting at Schenectady High School when the polls opened at 6 a.m. — even though the decision to vote would cause him to miss his bus to Albany.

“I always vote,” he said, as he waited in the darkness of 5:50 a.m. and the chill of a 32-degree morning. “You should always vote, exercise your right to vote.”

People in the Capital Region have been waiting for months for the finale — Democrat Hillary Clinton against Republican Donald Trump, in a campaign that has featured insults and arguments.

Selke also said voting gives people the right for a little ranting and raving after the election. “If you lose, at least you’ve got the right to complain for the next four years,” he said.

Selke had to vote early. In addition to a job in Albany with New York State, he also works a four-hour night shift at Target. Schenectady High School’s first vote went to Donald Trump. “I’ll tell you, I don’t care,” Selke said.

There was a steady stream of voters during the first 15 minutes at the high school. Some people just wanted to cast their votes before going to work. At Schenectady, Jeanne Walsh of Schenectady was second in line.

“I want to cast my ballot, make sure nothing interferes with my voting today,” said Walsh, 68. “I want to cast my vote and be counted. It’s important to me.”

Walsh also voted for Trump. She and Selke walked out of the school together; she decided to give her fellow Trump supporter a ride to another bus stop.

“I feel it’s the neighborly thing to do,” Walsh said.

—Jeff Wilkin

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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