West Harlem residents line up to vote on Election Day, despite expanded mail-in and early voting

Local residents line up to vote outside the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Elementary School.

Local residents lined up outside Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Elementary School to cast their ballots Tuesday morning, directed by both poll workers and signs in English, Spanish and Mandarin. 

As the pandemic continues to wear on, over 2 million New Yorkers voted early, according to an announcement from city election officials Sunday. Many more voted by mail. But these West Harlem residents chose to don their masks and stand in line six feet apart from one another in order to vote in person on Election Day. 

Many voters cited concerns over mail-in ballots as their reason for coming to the polls in person. Andres Chang-Qui Torres, 32, said that he and his wife never received the absentee ballots they requested.

Andres and Mayra Chang-Qui Torres voted in person today with their six-month-old son, Andres Elias, because they never received the absentee ballots they requested.

“It’s very worrisome,” he said, adjusting a blanket around his 6-month-old son, Andres Elias. 

“I had to come out here with my baby, expose him to COVID and all those risks in order to get my vote counted. If this happens in New York, imagine what could happen in other states,” he said.   

Chang-Qui Torres, who worked in the U.S. Treasury Department as an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said he contacted the city election board to make it aware of the issue. 

Other voters explained that they felt that voting in person was the best way to make sure their ballot got counted.

Violet Galley, 92, decided to vote in person despite being at higher risk for the coronavirus.

Violet Ursula Galley said she was happy with her voting experience.

“[The poll workers] were all amazed when they saw me and my age,” said Galley.  

“I’d rather go on this special day and have it done because there’s so much corruption. And I don’t like the mail at the moment. The service is terrible,” she explained, referring to the mail delays that have persisted throughout the pandemic, prompting national concern about the integrity of mail-in ballots. 

“I’m happy with what happened today. It was great. Everyone was so nice,” she smiled. 

Many of the residents who voted at the school on Tuesday — including Galley — are regular voters who had participated in the 2016 election as well. 

But Ashton Brereton, 33, did not vote in the last presidential election, which is why he felt so strongly about coming out to cast a ballot with his wife.

“I feel like a lot of things could have happened differently if we had better leadership. I’m hopeful that Biden could be that. Hopefully this does make a difference,” he said. 

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Rose Gilbert is a student at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, covering topics including Harlem and small businesses in New York City.
Before enrolling at Columbia, she was a senior news reporter at the Daily Princetonian, writing about migration policy, graduate student affairs and protests at Princeton University. Twitter: @rosegilbert99, Instagram: @roseamgilbert.

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