In a year of economic uncertainty, a pandemic that’s changed the landscape of the city, and continued protests over injustice, New Yorkers are eager to make their voices heard. More than 1.1 million ballots over nine days of early voting were cast in New York City, according to the Board of Elections.
And while New York is frequently described as solidly “blue,” the city’s views on important issues are far from homogenous. When it comes to things like immigration, the economy, and the handling of COVID-19, the more than 8 million residents of the five boroughs hold wide-ranging views, including which of the two candidates they want to be elected president.
As people waited in the rain for hours at early voting polling sites across the city, they shared why it was so important to make sure their vote was counted.
UPPER WEST SIDE
John Ginsberg and Nina Ginsberg
“It’s important to get a competent president and somebody who knows how to lead the country,” said John Ginsberg who has lived in the Upper West Side for about 44 years. “I'm looking to get rid of Trump, someone who we've hated for decades, just as a New York developer, even before his rise to power.”
“I want somebody who fights for equality, women's rights, obviously, the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Nina Ginsberg, 33, who accompanied her father to the polls. “Somebody who cares about that.”
“And believes that that's real,” her father added. “Trump says the Black Lives Matter group is a terrorist organization.”
“We love the fact that there will be a female and a person of color as vice president,” he continued. “And based on Biden's age, I think she'll be the next president after him.”
“It's a super frightening year,” said 24-year-old Willem Smith-Clark. “It's so frightening what he's doing and everything we're hearing [about] separating children from their parents—keeping them in cages. It's reminiscent of World War Two, and Japanese internment. It's just so f****** depressing and scary to see that there's someone who's running this country with the intent to run it into the ground for only his own benefit, and his cronies and the people around him, you know, and I just want to do whatever I can, which is, you know, circle the right dots to hope that we can keep this country a place that's welcoming to a lot of people.”
On voting early: “I'm young. I'm healthy. I can stand in line for four hours so I should be voting early to make sure my vote is counted. And if I can do it in person, I'm sure it's getting counted.”
“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic and hopeful,” said Polly Rua, 67, who was waiting for her son to join her in line. “I'm a single mother and this is such an important election. I just really wanted to have the experience of doing this with him. And I think he feels the same way.”
On her voting plan: “I was a little nervous about the mail-in voting. I understand why people are doing it. But I feel pretty comfortable outside with masks on. I chose today because my son is in grad school and this was the only day he could vote. He has classes on November 3 and a big test on November 4. He just got out of an online class, so he's going to be joining me in a few minutes.”
On the importance of this election: “I just hope that people really get out and vote. The election is so crucial—really, one of the most crucial in history. We need to fix racial injustice. We need to fix income disparity. I don't think the current administration is doing anything to bring us all together and to solve those problems. They're voicing false narratives that bring people apart and fear monger and that is very upsetting to me.”
“I find it odd that in 2020 in America that this is how we have to vote, that we have to stand in line for four hours,” Peter Marinos, 69, a retired theater actor, said. “It seems unreasonable. Imagine how many people vote for American Idol in 10 minutes. They could have a secure system where we could all vote easily but not enough people in politics care about doing that, about making it easy for us.”
On running into Donald Trump in his theater days: “He never was somebody that anyone should ever have trusted. He's always been an awful, dirty old man. Just, you know, peeking in the girls dressing rooms. Everyone knew all his businesses had failed and all the people that he stiffed that worked for him—all of that was already known, and people still voted for him the first time. It's hard to see how anyone would support Trump.”
“I am a firm believer that people should vote for what they feel is right,” said Melissa Corona, who lives in Dongan Hills. “I don't believe in picking red or blue or Republican, Democrat. I just look for what I feel the person is doing right. And I think that Trump needs to win.”
On criticism of President Trump: “Everybody is quick to blame him because of the pandemic, saying that he didn't do nothing right. It’s wrong for anybody to say that because when it comes down to it, the mayors and governors control each state, not the president, so people need to take the blame off of him. It’s the same thing when people say that he's racist. If you really think about it, all the things that the man has done as a businessman over the years, and all the years he's done it—he's helped so many people, not just white people. I truly believe that he is for the people.”
“My family, who are Cherokee and African American, and a large majority of them are veterans—we're all blue. We all vote blue, straight down the line, straight down the ballot,” said the Mariners Harbor resident and U.S. Army veteran.
On following Biden and Obama over the years: “They cared. They didn't go and do what Trump has done. It disgusted me when he mocked a disabled man on television. This man was a veteran too. I have two disabled children. My daughter is autistic. My other daughter is developmentally-disabled. And I have a brother who lives in an adult disability home. How dare you mock the disabled? You hurt me to a point that I can't stand your face.”
“I have family who are very rude about the fact that I support Trump,” said the 37-year-old Annadale resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “And there's people on social media that say ‘Trump supporters should kill themselves’ or ‘How could you be friends with anyone who's a Trump supporter?’ There shouldn't be this divide where you're threatening violence on people. There's a radical left and, sadly, I do know a few of them. I don't really say anything, but they've actually posted things on Facebook that are threatening almost. And I'm like, ‘See, if I told you that I'm going to vote for Trump or that I did vote for Trump, are you going to vandalize my car or something?’”
On why she supports Trump: “A lot of what you hear from Biden is the possibility of closing down the economy again [because of the coronavirus],” said the fitness instructor. “A lot of us really can't afford that. I've been on unemployment for seven months. My children were going to a special needs preschool and their last day of school was March 12. They went full virtual and they both really lost a lot of their skills. It's better now that they're on a hybrid schedule, but when you have a class of six children, there's no reason that they can't go full time. There's little things that I guess are more at a local level, but I feel it starts from the top. If we vote Democrat, it's going to be more likely to stay this way for at least a longer time. I voted for Trump initially and while he's not perfect, I feel that he's delivered or made the attempt to deliver on everything that he said he would do.”
“I care about medical care and judges being voted in because now there's really going to be an imbalance of power,” said Kema One, a nursing assistant. “And that really got to me, as well as the crisis issue going on with COVID and the response being so nonchalant... Yeah, nonchalant, I'll just put it that way to be respectful.”
On how working the frontlines in the pandemic impacted her politics: “When you go to work, and you see people in rooms dying, and you can't even hold a hand to give them comfort care? And you can't even attend to clients because you’re wrapping so many bodies at night? It’s real and if we don't wake up and say ‘enough is enough’? This has to change. They predict 200,000 more people would die. And I don't want to be the one wrapping them dead bodies because they could be my relatives. I don't want them to be anyone’s relatives. I always exercise my right to vote, but it made me feel more vulnerable as if I have to promote action. It really made me feel like, right now I need to start recruiting, saying ‘get out and vote,’ calling friends, calling relatives—‘Hey, do you need help to get out and vote?’”
“Human trafficking—that's very important for me and I know President Trump is fighting against it. That's one of the biggest reasons why I voted for him,” said the teacher’s assistant, who is from the Dominican Republic and has lived in New York for five years. “A lot of people call him racist because what is happening between Mexico and U.S., but one thing that he did was fight human trafficking. That's affecting Mexico and also the U.S. I have seen how many children disappeared. That's something that has been happening for so long, and nobody talks about it.”
On encouraging others to vote: “I just want people to vote because that's the way you can make yourself heard. It doesn't matter if you're gonna vote for Trump or for Biden—if you have the opportunity as a U.S. citizen—go and vote.”
“I've never really been into politics that much until this year,” said the health care marketing professional. “I went through a lot with work due to COVID.”
On what she saw working in health care this year: “What did I not see? Times are hard right now. A lot of people got laid off, a lot of people, you know, passed away. I saw a lot of people crying.
On how she felt casting her vote: “I feel amazing. I feel good. I can't wait to see change. I like the process of early voting. I thought I was gonna be in a line. But I gotta early vote because I won't be able to vote on election day. So I'm like, I just want to get it over with. That way, since I voted, I can tell everyone: ‘Hey, I voted. People, please go vote.’”
“I have worked with a lot of scientists for years and I know that they do not want to run around with their hair on fire, telling everybody that there is an emergency we have to address, but they are,” said the science educator. “And they really want us to pay attention to the loss of biodiversity, climate change, things like that. And I want an administration and people who are going to be working in government who think that that is important.”
On doing his part: “Generally who I reach over the course of the day of my work are kids, and I know that they are not old enough to vote. But what we do today will affect them. So the best that I can do is to, on the one hand, when I'm working, teach them, and on the other hand, make sure that I do things which help guarantee a future for them, which is as positive as I can make it.”
On his neighborhood: “I was at a protest a few months ago, and we were getting lots of cheering from people in the buildings. It is a neighborhood which understands that a diverse society is not a weak society, that it is a society which has a lot of strengths and resilience and a lot of answers that might not be there in a less diverse society. They understand that the rest of the world is not our enemy, that we are part of the rest of the world as much as we are part of our immediate community.”
“The thing that I've most been worried about for the past several months is that Justice Ginsburg would die. And she did,” said Shirley Alves. “Now we're gonna have a six, three conservative justice. I've also been concerned about the federal judges that Trump has placed. They're not four years, 10 years, they're 40 years. And that's what we're going to have to live with and that's my concern. So at least by voting, I can hopefully make a change in the short term.”
On economic disparities: “When I hear on the radio that people don't have enough food, it's heartbreaking. If you have children and you're trying to hold on to your place to live or if you’ve lost your job. When I was younger that would happen to me so I know what kind of stress that is like. The fact that economic disparity is just increasing—I think that that's very worrisome.”
On the U.S. standing in the world: “Other countries in the world see us and they laugh. We used to be a respected nation. When I was traveling, people would say, ‘Obama, he's wonderful. He's so great.’ And now when I talk to people that I've met overseas, they feel sorry for me.”
“I feel disgusted with what's going on and I think we need a change,” said the 73-year-old, originally from London. “Last year, I couldn't vote because I had to go away to bury my mother. This year I decided I must come out to vote. I feel so much better instead of sitting home, getting agitated and listening to the news.”
“I don't ever remember having early voting in New York state. It made us both feel very comfortable to come in earlier rather than waiting until the day of," said Kirsten Valt about coming to the polls with her coworker. "This way you feel like your vote is really out there, and it's already being tabulated and you'll get the results. I think there won't be any discrepancies, hopefully.”
On why climate change is so important to her: “You want everything to be around and not past the turning point. Changes do need to be made because you want to have the next generation and yourself enjoy things like going to national parks and being out and doing things without having to worry about fracking and water supply and different things like that.”
“This is my first time voting,” said the 20-year-old. “I'm so excited because I'm going to learn how the process is. I’ve also been doing my research. I was keeping up with the debates, following them so that way I can know a little bit about how to do this.”
On coming up with her voting plan: “Kirsten and I work at the same place. As this was my first time, I didn't want to come by myself. So I asked my [co-workers], ‘Are you going to vote?’ She told me, ‘Yeah, we are going to vote this week. We should plan and come together.’ It makes me feel more comfortable because she’s voted before so she explain me how it is.”
On how her experiences impacted her politics: “I lived outside of the United States most of my life and now I come here and I see all the struggles I had to go through with housing, work, education. And I think it’s very important to consider education for immigrant students, international students that come here with a purpose of improving themselves. There’s so many things that block them and I feel that that is something that the candidates need to work on.”