Capital Region

Red or Blue, local voters ride civic wave

'Just about everybody who came in here wanted one of those 'I Voted' stickers'

Nestor Guardado joined a wave of voters Tuesday, though the 37-year-old Rotterdam resident wasn’t part of a blue or red wave. 

He was performing a civic duty, he said. The last time Guardado considered a candidate on Election Day, he stood in a booth, pulled curtains and pressed tabs. That vote helped George W. Bush win a second term as president in 2004.

On Tuesday afternoon, Guardado used a pen to mark circles next to candidates’ names and fed a paper ballot into a quiet scanner at Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Rotterdam.

“This way, at least, I’ll have an excuse to complain if things don’t go my way,” Guardado said. “I participated.”

Thousands of other Capital Region residents followed suit on a rainy, gloomy day — considering candidates for governor, state Senate and state Assembly, among other offices. In a midterm election some said was a referendum on the administration of President Donald Trump, many voted the party line.

Like Guardado, voters heeded calls — in both traditional and social media — to travel to polls and support candidates. They voted in churches, firehouses, town municipal centers and a schools, among other places.

Tuesday night, people were still walking into the gymnasium at Schenectady High School at 8:50 p.m. Ten minutes later, election officials said 1,725 had cast ballots during the 15-hour poll session — a larger number than usual.

Absentee ballots will bring turnout for the school polling place to 2,900, from three districts.

“Just about everybody who came in here wanted one of those ‘I Voted’ stickers,” said Mickey Ottati, one of the supervisors. “I’ll bet we had well over 1,500. I’ve never seen that.”

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Kathy Lehman, another supervisor, said people waited in lines during the morning and afternoon hours for the 13 ballot stations. 

“A lot of young people, and a lot of first-timers,” Lehman said. “People brought their families in so the kids knew how to vote.”

Ashley Picardi was one of the last to vote, at 8:45 p.m.

“I don’t like Cuomo, that’s the main reason,” Picardi said of the governor, who minutes later would be declared victorious in his bid to retain the state’s highest office. “I rushed out of work just to do this. I was supposed to be out by 5, but we got slammed — I’m a restaurant employee. I said, ‘As long as I get out in time to vote.'”

Norma Silaika made her appointment in plenty of time.

“We vote in every election,” said Silaika, who arrived at Queen of Peace with her husband, Richard. “It’s a privilege that not many people have. It always amazed me the younger generation doesn’t take this seriously.”

Some people at Queen of Peace took the election seriously enough to line up at the parish center doors before 6 a.m., when the poll opened. By 1 p.m., close to 700 had voted.

“If we get 900, we’re doing good,” said Fran Pugliese, a voting machine specialist. “We’re at a pace a go over 1,000. We’re seeing more of the younger kids, the 18- to 30-year-olds, which is interesting. We’re seeing people who haven’t voted before.”

Some Rotterdam voters named their choices and gave reasons.

“There’s a lot of drama going on,” said Michele Caprara, 61. “I know who I want, what I want and who to get rid of. I want to get rid of Cuomo. This is our state, and he’s treating it like he owns it.”

Others said they hoped their votes would change the dialogue between the major political parties and their supporters.

“We’re losing our decency. We’re losing our morals. We’re losing our tolerance,” said Beth Silaika, who followed her parents into the parish center. “I don’t think people are allowed their opinions any more; someone is always wrong. That’s not the way I was raised.”

Voter turnout also was strong at Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Co. in Saratoga County. Shortly after 2 p.m., 758 people had voted.

“”I think we’re doing great, the way the weather is,” said Donna Maynard, one of seven election inspectors on the job inside the firehouse.

Inspector Susan Markarian-Poran said many of the Malta voters were seniors.

“The greatest generation is here,” she said. “I think that’s a glorious thing.”

Tim Riley, 49, arrived and voted “Row B.” 

“I’m a Trump supporter,” he said. “Got to keep it going, hopefully.”

Elizabeth Ebbecke, 35, said she believed in her civic duty. But she did not believe in the Trump administration.

“My general opinion is we have the chance to vote, we should do it,” Ebbecke said. “This is a chance to not allow something like Trump to happen again.”

At Niskayuna Town Hall, 1,351 residents of three districts had voted by 5 p.m. Election officials, like their counterparts in the other communities, saw a steady stream of voters throughout the day.

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Brendan McDonnell, a senior at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady, turned 18 on Saturday and was voting for the first time.

“I think it’s important to take part in the political process,” he said. “Everyone in this republic, we have our voice. I think it’s important we exercise our right to vote.”

McDonnell was voting for change.

“I want my country to be more stable — less divisive,” he said. “I want it to be more unified and a better place, hopefully, for my kids to grow up.”

Sara Sharkey, 35, arrived with her son Jack, 6. 

“We always vote,” Sharkey said. “It’s very important for me to set a good example for my son and teach him civic responsibility. I believe in women’s rights and equality — basic human privileges that everyone is entitled to. I voted accordingly.”

Contact Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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