Following arrows on the sidewalk and maintaining a recommended six feet of distance between each other, a line of masked early voters took over the block on East 71st Street and Third Avenue Saturday.
While poll workers paced up and down the street announcing a 15 to 20-minute wait time and encouraging voters to stay, Laura Matiz was timing the line’s progress on her phone. It had been four minutes since she joined the queue at the new polling site at Marymount Manhattan College. She was getting closer, but the line had just started to slow down. She knew she was voting for the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.
The 58-year-old real estate broker who considers herself an independent had been monitoring conversations on the Nextdoor app, which connects users and their neighbors. Even though the other Upper East Side early polling location was closer to Matiz, her neighbors were reporting shorter wait times at the private college so she walked over to claim a spot in line. Her husband and daughter were already inside voting.
“I don’t go out at all, but I had to vote,” said Matiz, who would have cast her ballot on Election Day but didn’t want to wait in line during a pandemic due to her lymphoma and two hip replacements. “It was not a question whether I was going to vote or not.”
Marymount Manhattan College opened its doors to voters for the first time Saturday after residents complained about wait times lasting hours at the alternative site, Robert F. Wagner Middle School.
Matiz wasn’t the only one strategically casting her vote. Erin Brown and Kevin O’Rourke had also timed their wait from the second they stepped in line to exiting the polls: 22 minutes.
The couple thought about mailing in their ballots, but it was easier to show up in person, said O’Rourke, 32. Both cast ballots for Biden.
“I think with everything going on we just wanted to make sure our vote was counted,” said Brown, 30. “There’s nothing to look forward to yet until it’s over.”
At eight minutes on Matiz’s timer, the line now wrapped around the corner of East 71st Street and Third Avenue.
“I’ve never voted early. I’ve always voted on Election Day, but you know, I’m just worried about the long lines,” she said adding that voting by mail was not something that occurred to her because she has little faith that the mail-ins will be accurately counted in time.
About 15 minutes passed and Matiz was finally going in. As she entered the doors, she waved to her husband, who was already out of the polls and waiting for her on the other side.