Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Two masked Ithacans wait six feet apart in line to vote on the first day early voting in New York State. Early voting ended Nov. 1 statewide.

November 2, 2020

‘Steady,’ Chilly Lines Mark Tompkins County Early Voting

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With early voting for the presidential election having ended on Sunday, Tompkins County said it’s prepared to process the next wave of ballots. 

As of Oct. 30, the Board of Elections received 11,055 ballots, according to Democratic Commissioner Stephen Dewitt. Voters cast about 2,200 of those ballots last weekend, when in-person, early voting started. According to Dewitt, lines have been “steady” but not “super long.”

Aimé Freedenberg ’21 voted Monday morning, skipping a Zoom lecture to vote at a quieter time and at a location with more parking. Freedenberg said the line was longer than she expected, lasting just under an hour. 

“It was pretty cold, and we seemed to be the only students there,” Freedenberg said. 

Inside the polling place, Freedenberg was asked to show identification before she received a ballot, although New York State law doesn’t require every voter to show ID. She said other voters followed social distancing and mask wearing guidelines.

Dewitt said he anticipates about 80 percent turnout for the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. In 2016, 75 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in the City of Ithaca. Turnout for the whole county, which also includes Lansing, Dryden, the Town of Ithaca and other areas, was slightly higher at 78 percent

Those figures are significantly higher than the nation as a whole, which, in 2016, had a turnout rate of only just above 60 percent.  

Out of 58,626 registered voters in Tompkins County, 32,190 are registered Democrat and 11,087 are Republican. In 2016, 26,093 people in the county voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while 9,370 voted for Trump. 

Prof. Dave Roberts, hotel administration, voted in Ithaca for the first time on Thursday after moving from Maryland. It took him about an hour to vote due to a technical issue with the polling site’s printer. Although he and other voters waited outside in a cold drizzle, he said almost everyone stayed and was in “remarkably good spirits.”

“I was really impressed with people’s positive attitude, standing in the rain for an hour. No one complained,” Roberts said. “It was pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever left a voting booth thinking, ‘Wow, I feel happy.’”


The Board of Elections has also received 9,574 absentee ballots as of Friday, about 64 percent of the 14,893 ballots initially delivered to voters. Dewitt said the county still expects to receive about 3,000 to 4,000 additional ballots, but knows some voters who requested ballots already voted in person. In New York, voters can cast their ballot in person even after submitting an absentee ballot –– the in-person vote will nullify and replace the absentee ballot.

Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3, meaning some may arrive after Election Day and could delay an election result for the county. 

Freedenberg registered to vote in Tompkins County in 2018 for the midterm election. She thought her vote would count more here than at home in Connecticut, where the congressional races are less competitive. She said she’s hopeful about this election, but doesn’t anticipate hearing definitive results immediately. 

“I’m a little bit anxious leading up to Tuesday and afterwards,” Freedenberg said. “I’m feeling like Halloween will be extended in its scariness.”

Roberts also said he’s nervous about the outcome if it’s anything other than “clear cut.”

Ithaca polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m on Election Day.