SCHENECTADY — Voters had varying reasons for waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots. In the morning, voter activity was brisk, and by late in the day, the pace had tapered off.
“I had trouble making up my mind,” said Cathy Gorecki as she emerged from St. John the Evangelist Parish on Tuesday morning.
Social Security is one key issue, said Gorecki, who is also bothered by a national lack of civility.
“And of course, COVID.”
Forty-percent of voters in Schenectady County had already cast their ballots in this year’s general election by Monday afternoon, according to state and county voter data.
Shanaya Baijnath, a business and finance major at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, said she waited simply because she didn’t have time.
Baijnath cited immigration and police reform as top issues, as well as the federal response to the COVID pandemic.
Shanta Thorpe, a case manager who works with intellectually disabled adults, is active in get-out-the-vote efforts, and tries to inspire people in her network to become politically engaged.
She voted on Election Day at Mont Pleasant Middle School to set an example.
“I feel empowered, but scared to find out what happens when the election is over and what it means for being a minority,” Thorpe said.
First-time voter Chade Roop waited until Tuesday because she wanted to have that experience, she said.
“I do feel anxious,” said Roop, a criminal justice major at SUNY Schenectady after she left William C Keane Elementary School on Albany Street. “I don’t like the way the country is going right now.”
Sharon Fielder shrugged.
“I’m used to doing it this way,” Fielder said, citing health care, education and the White House’s response to the COVID pandemic as key issues.
“This is just really scary,” Fielder said. “We say our prayers for a better future.”
People came and went from Phyllis Bornt Branch Library & Literacy Center in Hamilton Hill in a lunchtime rush, popping “I voted” stickers on their foreheads.
Roughly 200 people voted by early afternoon at the location, said a poll worker, who expected a surge of people to come in after work.
Iris Merced voted with pals Nilda Pellot and Nana Alers at Phyllis Bornt.
Trump has been needlessly divisive, she said.
“Four more years would be like life in hell,” Merced said.
For all three, racial justice and immigration were leading issues.
“We need a president that’s going to get everybody together and not divide us,” Merced said. “And I feel like Black Lives Matter so much because I have relatives that are half Puerto Rican and they’re half Black.”
Alers said she wanted “good change.”
“Instead of war, everything’s gotta be in peace,” she said.
Donnie Birch, who wore a camouflage “Make America Great Again” ball cap, said he’s a lifelong Democrat but changed his voter registration when President Donald Trump blasted into the political sphere five years ago.
“I switched my registration to Republican because I can no longer identify with the Democrat’s socialist agenda,” Birch said after leaving St. John’s.
For some, voting on Election Day is a tradition. For others, it’s because they needed as much time as possible to make their decision about how to cast their ballot.
For Rosalind Samuria, it was her only chance to vote in person.
Samuria traveled out-of-state recently, and her self-quarantine lasted through all of New York’s early voting period.
“I didn’t want to miss it, so I made sure that I traveled in time to get back,” Samuria said. “So that I could quarantine and vote.”
When she arrived at St. George’s Episcopal Church in the Stockade neighborhood after work Tuesday evening, Samuria was greeted by a sight that made her and many other Schenectady voters happy — short lines.
“I just got out of work at 5:30, it’s dark and I’m tired,” she said, “but I could not [not] let my vote count. No matter how tired, I couldn’t think, ‘Well, I’ll just not do it.’ I had to. It’s my civic duty.”
The post-work crowd at two Schenectady polling places — St. George’s and Bellevue Reformed Church on Broadway — was light, with no lines extending past the door at either site.
Those short lines are exactly why Kyle Pangburn waited until the final few hours Tuesday to cast his ballot.
“I always like the idea of voting on Election Day,” Pangburn said, “so I just decided to wait. I was at work all day, so I knew it would be pretty short at the end of the day.”
Monica Fiscaletti didn’t vote until Tuesday because she said she was still undecided up until Monday morning.
Fiscaletti, a 25-year-old who only registered to vote this year and was voting in her first election, said that casting her first vote was “overwhelming. Definitely anxious, nervous, but exciting.”
Ultimately, she felt comfortable casting her vote for former vice president Joe Biden due to his stances on education and women’s rights.
“I was really doing my research,” Fiscaletti said. “It took a little bit of time for me to really understand a lot, but I think I’m good.”
The sentiment from those casting their votes for Biden was a frustration with President Donald Trump’s demeanor, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his stances on immigration and racial issues.
“I just don’t like a lot of the things Trump says,” Joseph Abbott said. “He sounds like a clown. He really does. I’m sorry to say, he has no business being president.”
“I was pretty concerned about the direction of the country,” Frank Greco said. “Obviously, the handling of the coronavirus played a big part of it. Just the rhetoric that Donald Trump has used over the last four years didn’t sit well with me. To me, it was a pretty easy choice.”
Samuria voted for Biden in hopes of his chances of healing the country’s racial divide.
“I’m a minority. I might not look like it, but just because I pass [as white] doesn’t mean those issues are not important to me. My children are Black, and I have to represent because [outwardly] you can see from them even if you can’t see it from me.
“Division and equality is a big thing for me. Black lives matter to me — all lives matter to me — and I hope it matters to our president. I want equality for this country, and I’d like to see it move forward.”
Darcy DeRocker went “Biden all the way. Blue all the way” with her vote, citing Trump’s attitude, immigration policies and the threat to women’s reproductive rights because of the recent Supreme Court appointment of Amy Coney Barrett.
“I feel like women should be able to make a decision about what’s done with their bodies,” DeRocker said. “I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-choice. I think that needs to be established, that people who are pro-choice are not necessarily people who are pro killing babies. That’s really important to understand that.”
Conversely, those supporting Trump’s reelection cast doubt over Biden’s foreign connections and the Democratic Party’s agenda.
“I support the president in his accomplishments,” Darren Barkman said, “but I think that the left has really lost their minds. I just don’t feel like you can give them power at this point.”
Don Boyle said accusations of improper dealings by Biden regarding the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and Biden’s son, Hunter, “sealed the deal” for his vote. Boyle also cast doubt on the former vice president’s fitness for office.
“He’s pretty senile. I’m just being honest,” Boyle said. “He doesn’t know where he’s at, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s a problem. I don’t want the guy having nuclear weapon codes.”
Chaz Burger cast his vote for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen out of frustration with the two major parties.
“Bipartisan politics has really corrupted and really torn apart this society,” Burger said. “I’d like to find more ways to work together, rather than tearing each other apart on these platforms. I really hope people consider other options beside this two-party system we’ve had forever.”
With many anticipating a long wait for results, Abbott was among those wary of potential civil unrest.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Look what they’re already doing in the city, boarding up everything. When did elections come to this? It’s going to be a rough one.”