Early voting wraps up with major portion of votes cast ahead of Election Day

Antoinette Curtis, left, with her mother, Joann Curtis, and her children outside the Schenectady County Public Library central branch, an early voting site, on Sunday. (Zach Matson/Staff Writer)

Antoinette Curtis, left, with her mother, Joann Curtis, and her children outside the Schenectady County Public Library central branch, an early voting site, on Sunday. (Zach Matson/Staff Writer)

A significant portion of registered voters across the Capital Region have voted days ahead of Election Day after nine days of early voting, the first in the state during a presidential election.

Early voting turnout tapered by the second weekend, with short or nonexistent waits at Schenectady County early voting sites Sunday, but over 120,000 voters across the seven-county Capital Region had already cast an early ballot by the start of the final day, according to preliminary data from the state Board of Elections. Tens of thousands of other voters had returned absentee ballots as of the middle of last week.

Early voting drew a steady stream of voters to locations across the region throughout the week, easing the expected strain on Election Day polling locations. With just Sunday early votes left to tally, Schenectady County had seen over 24,000 early votes cast — nearly 25 percent of the county’s registered voters. Including absentee ballots, about 40 percent of the county’s registered voters had voted by the end of the weekend.

In Saratoga County, where lines throughout the week regularly lasted 45 minutes or more, nearly 24,000 votes were cast at early vote sites. Albany County had counted nearly 45,000 votes after early sites closed Saturday. Over 3,000 voters cast early ballots in Montgomery County; nearly 4,000 people cast early votes in Fulton County.

Early voter turnout in the Capital Region peaked on Wednesday, when nearly 19,000 voters cast a ballot, falling to around 12,000 ballots cast on Saturday. By Sunday, the region’s final early voters found less of a wait at the polls.

Antoinette Curtis and her mother, Joann Curtis, brought Antoinette’s two young daughters to the Schenectady County Public Library’s central location on Clinton Street to show them what elections are all about.

“I think it’s very important; you have to exercise your right to vote,” said Antoinette Curtis. She said she brought her young girls to show them the importance of voting and instill in them the right that protects all the others. “I’m hoping she sees it’s not a hard process, and I want her to know she has the right to vote and her vote counts, her vote matters.”

Mom and grandma both tried to pry a response from 10-year-old Sharai Canal, who has learned about voting in school this year.

“What happens if you don’t vote?” Antoinette asked her daughter.

“You don’t have rights,” Sharai answered shyly.

Joann said it was critical to pass down the importance of voting to younger generations, ensuring they appreciate the value of their vote.

“They will go out and vote and do what they have to do,” she said.

While early voting helped spread voters over more than a week before Election Day, the first year of presidential early voting did raise some concerns. In Saratoga County, the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee raised concerns about long waits and the lack of an early polling site within the city of Saratoga Springs; the closest early voting site to the city was at Wilton’s Gavin Park, a few minutes outside of the city. In a letter to county elections officials, the city’s Democratic committee urged elections officials to establish a polling site in the city for future elections.

“It would seem to make sense that the City of Saratoga Springs have at least one early polling place, if not more,” the party committee wrote in the letter. “We understand that this may not be possible for this election cycle, but respectfully request that this be seriously considered for the future.”

Another city without any early polling site: Amsterdam. The only Montgomery County early voting site was in Fonda, near the county’s main office building, about a 10-mile drive from the county’s largest population center.

Early voters leaving the Schenectady County library on Sunday, though, cheered the short wait and asserted the importance of their electoral participation.

“My voice matters,” said one voter outside the Schenectady library when asked what brought her out to the polls. “I hope there are changes made — some positive ones.”

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