With five days still to go before Election Day, November 3, thousands of South Fork residents have already cast their ballots at early voting polling places in East Hampton, Southampton and Riverhead.
There are two federal elections and two state elections being contested on this year’s ballot, and one seat on the Southampton Town Justice Court bench for residents of that town only. Four of the 12 seats on county state and county court benches on the ballot are being contested only by minor party candidates.
At the top of the ballot is the presidential race between incumbent President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
The marquee local race is the contest for the 1st Congressional District between incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin and Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff.
Down the ballot there is a race for the New York Senate seat long held by Republican Kenneth P. LaValle, which is now being sought by Republican candidate Anthony Palumbo and Democratic candidate Laura Ahearn.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is seeking reelection to the assembly seat he has held for more than 20 years and is being challenged by Republican Heather Collins.
In Southampton Town, Democrat Karen Sartain and Republican Patrick Gunn are competing to for a seat on the Town Justice bench. Ms. Sartain is currently on the bench, having been appointed to fill out the term of Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni, who was elected to the Suffolk County Family Court last year.
Early voting polling places will remain open daily until Sunday, November 1. Times vary by day.
Voters may still cast absentee ballots by mail. Unlike in other states where court fights are simmering over the deadline of accepting mailed-in ballots, New York’s election laws allow that an absentee ballot will be counted whenever it is received by the county Board of Elections as long as it is postmarked on Election Day.
Absentee ballots may also be brought in person to any early voting site and dropped off with election workers. Anyone holding a filled-out absentee ballot does not have to wait in line to hand it in.
Lines on Saturday and Sunday snaked out of the polling places at Windmill Village in East Hampton and the gymnasium at the Stony Brook University Southampton campus, through the parking lots and down nearby roads. Many voters lounged in beach chairs they had brought or in chairs set up outside by poll workers.
By noon on Wednesday, more than 7,900 people had cast ballots at the two South Fork polling places, the Suffolk County Board of Elections said. East Hampton, in particular, saw heavy turnout, with 3,951 ballots cast — about 10 percent of the total registered voters in the town. In Southampton, where there are nearly 42,000 registered voters townwide, 3,961 votes were cast over the weekend. Riverhead also saw heavy turnout with more than 3,633 votes cast out of about 17,500 registered voters.
“This is the most important election in my lifetime and I don’t want to take any chances that something would prevent me from voting [on Election Day],” Barry Hamlin, who recently switched his voter registration to Water Mill from New York City, said while he waited in line in Shinnecock Hills in a light drizzle on Monday. “This isn’t so bad. It reminds me of waiting in line for a concert. Nobody is paying attention to the rain. It’s good to see everyone so enthusiastic for an election, [voter turnout] in this country is terrible, just terrible. People need to pay more attention.”
Mr. Hamlin said that he is a life-long Republican, but Democrats have made up the bulk of the voters that have rushed to the polls in the first three days of voting. More than 20,000 Democrats had cast ballots by the end of the day on Monday, compared to just over 7,300 Republicans and about 8,300 voters who are not registered with one of the major parties.
This is the first presidential election in which early voting was an option for New Yorkers.
More than 35,800 Suffolk County residents had cast ballots by the end of the day on Monday, compared to just 19,000 in all nine days of early voting in the 2019 election, which featured only state and local races.