'We want to see it happen': New Yorkers spent hours waiting in the rain to vote early and make a statement

Jake Lahut
·5 min read
voter line brooklyn early voting
Voters wait up to two hours to vote early at a polling site in the Brooklyn Museum in New York City on Oct. 26, 2020. Jake Lahut/Insider
  • More than 61 million Americans have voted early in the 2020 general election, and more than 20 million among them have voted in person, according to the US Elections Project.

  • At an early voting site at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City on Monday, the line wrapped around the entire building, with voters waiting nearly two hours to vote.

  • "You look at all these people, and you realize there's this huge determination to exercise our right to vote," Jane Armstrong, a 60-year-old freelance painter from Crown Heights, told Insider while waiting in the rain.

  • People willing to brave the inclement weather were skeptical about voting by mail, particularly because of the Trump administration's handling of the Postal Service and the New York City Board of Elections experiencing issues with the process in the June primary.

  • "I don't fully trust our voting by mail," said Rachel Schactman, a 29-year-old resident of Prospect Lefferts Gardens. "The city wasn't clear about when we had to cast mail-in ballots in order for them to be counted."

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Under the pelting rain and just past the gaze of a Statue of Liberty replica behind the Brooklyn Museum, dozens of New Yorkers waited up to two hours to cast their vote early on Monday.

The Empire State greatly expanded its voting by mail system going into the 2020 election, allowing anyone to cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for voting absentee.

However, enough Brooklynites donned rain jackets and armed themselves with umbrellas to make the in-person early voting line at the museum wrap around the entire building, which is really more like a full block.

"For us, we want to do it in person," Abbie Klenzman, a 39-year-old hair stylist from Prospect Heights told Insider while waiting in line with her kids.

"We want to know it's happening, we want to see it happen," her husband, Seth Scantlen, chimed in. 

Scantlen, a 41-year-old artist, added that the sacrifice of waiting in the rain would be worth it once he saw the machine register his ballot inside. 

His sentiment was a common one among the early voters, who spent somewhere between an hour-and-a-half to two hours once they hopped in line to the point where they would finally get out of the rain and make it inside to vote.

Scantlen, Klenzman, and more than 20 million other Americans have already voted in-person so far, according to the US Elections Project's running tally.

The early turnout has smashed records across the country, with more than 61 million Americans already done with voting more than a week out from the election when mail-in votes are also included. 

More than a dozen voters who spoke to Insider outside the Brooklyn Museum on Monday cited many of the same reasons for carving out the time to brave the soggy weather. The main motivating factors they cited were making a statement by waiting in line to vote and making sure to do it in person out of a fear that voting by mail may carry some risk.

While some brought up fears around President Donald Trump's hampering of the United States Postal Service, others said their concerns were more localized.

"I don't fully trust our voting by mail," said Rachel Schactman, a 29-year-old who works in tech and lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. "The city wasn't clear about when we had to cast mail-in ballots in order for them to be counted."

Schactman was referring to the June primary in New York where expanded voting by mail turned into a nightmare, as The New York Times described it.

Some congressional races took weeks to call, with the city's Board of Elections employees swamped as the Big Apple saw a tenfold increase in the number of mail-in ballots, bringing the total to more than 400,000. Even if the risk of having their ballot not counted was minuscule, some voters waiting in the rain were not willing to risk it this time around.

Trump was another common motivating factor, they said, even in how they chose the optics of how to cast their ballots.

"You look at all these people, and you realize there's this huge determination to exercise our right to vote," Jane Armstrong, a 60-year-old freelance painter from Crown Heights, told Insider.

Armstrong noted that there was a palpable urgency to get Trump out of office, and that demonstrating a willingness to stand in line for hours would hopefully send a clear message.

Abby Schreiber, a 31-year-old freelance journalist and consultant in Crown Heights, said beyond being "100% sure that my vote was going to be received and counted," there was a more visceral sensation that came with voting in person.

Schreiber, who does consulting work for Fair Fight Action, an anti-voter suppression organization led by Stacey Abrams, noted she has voted by mail in the past, but "when you do vote in person there just feels like a more active participation, even though your vote is the same."

Despite the rain and occasional gusts to make things even more chilly and uncomfortable, the mood throughout the line was upbeat.

A young man sauntered around puddles offering people free slices of pizza, and the People's Bodega set up a cart at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue. Here, on the border of three Brooklyn neighborhoods — Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens — longtime residents and recent transplants were equally eager to exercise their civic duty.

While the length of the line may just amount to a social media post for some, the scale of participation at the local level represented something more for voters like Schreiber.

"I definitely think the fact that so many people are here waiting in line in the rain in New York is a testament to how energized people have been this season to vote," she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider