The general election is underway as voters in New York and New Jersey cast ballots during early voting, which began this past Saturday.
This will be a busy week across the region as candidates make closing arguments to voters. It’s also an important week for a major court case over absentee ballots here in New York.
WNYC’s Brigid Bergin, senior politics reporter and host of WNYC's live Sunday call-in show “The People’s Guide to Power," went on "Morning Edition" on Tuesday to talk politics.
Michael Hill: Brigid, let’s start with early voting. I know we have some numbers back for here in New York City. How does the turnout look so far?
Brigid Bergin: So far, 130,000 voters have cast ballots for early voting. By comparison, that’s more voters so far than both of this year’s primaries and last year’s general election on the same day combined. But more than double that number of voters had turned out so far at this point in 2020, a presidential election year. This year is the first time New Yorkers got to vote early for a gubernatorial contest in New York.
And Monday, there was an extra reason for voters to get out early — the city Board of Elections was offering special Halloween-themed early voting stickers. So maybe there’s a little holiday swag bump in these numbers.
Tuesday is a big day for that absentee ballot case you and Jon Campbell have been following. What news should we expect from this today?
There are two hearings today in Albany in two court cases that could impact absentee ballots. One deals with when absentee ballots are counted. The other has to do with the temporary illness excuse adopted by lawmakers through the end of this year to deal with COVID-19 exposure and illness.
Jon joined me on “The People’s Guide to Power” on Sunday and framed the decision on that COVID-19 excuse, saying, "It would be pretty extraordinary for the courts to throw out that excuse after it's been upheld by the lower courts to this point. It would be pretty extraordinary to see that thrown out a week before Election Day. And also people who already voted with that excuse, their ballots are out of the envelope and counted."
So we will be watching what happens there today and if there any appeals.
The race for New York governor is drawing some big names to stump for the candidates. Can you tell us what the candidates are up to this week — let’s start with the Republican candidate, Lee Zeldin.
Just yesterday he was campaigning in Westchester County. He was joined by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who remember shocked a lot of people when won his election last year. He railed against COVID lockdowns and for parents to have a strong say in the classroom, and he’s basically saying Zeldin is poised to do what he did in Virginia right here in New York.
"They said a Republican can’t win in New York and that’s exactly what they said in Virginia last year. They said no Republican can win for governor in Virginia," Youngkin said. "The suburbs are too blue, the media is too strong. They forgot to do one thing: ask the voters, that’s what they forgot to do."
Over the weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was also here in New York at a rally on Long Island for Zeldin. These are major figures in the Republican Party who see a real chance for Zeldin to flip New York from blue to red. So these closing few days are going to be something to watch.
And what about Gov. Kathy Hochul — what’s her schedule look like this week?
She’s also campaigning with local candidates and elected officials across the state. She has a really big event on Thursday here in the city. She will be hosting a rally at Barnard College, that’s the women’s college that’s part of Columbia University.
She’ll be joined by some of the leading women elected officials in the state including Attorney General Letitia James, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, and of course… none other than from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton gave the keynote address at the Democratic State Convention earlier this year, where she called on voters to step up for democracy. And that was months before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to throw out Roe v. Wade.
So this will be a moment to energize voters, especially women, around this election. And it comes at a time when Hochul really needs to pull out the stops. Polls have tightened. She’s been criticized for not being out on the ground for more during this campaign, and she’s come under increasing attack for ceding issues like crime and the economy to Republicans, even though these are issues of broad concern to voters.
Brigid, in other parts of the country such as Arizona there are reports of aggressive voter intimidation. Have we seen anything like that here in New York?
Fortunately, nothing like the armed militiamen that we're seeing reported in Arizona. I have seen a couple of concerning tweets about voters with some unpleasant experiences. One voter described being physically shoved into a tree bed after removing a candidate’s sign that was on private property. No one wanted to talk on the record about it.
Officially, the city Board of Elections says they have not gotten any unusual reports. But they noted that voters can report things to poll site coordinators or the NYPD officer there, if they feel comfortable doing so. Not really great options and hopefully we won't see anything like that here.
If a voter is concerned about something happening at a poll site, or they have a question about their voting rights, where can they get more information?
I got some great advice for voters from Janai Nelson, head of the Legal Defense Fund, who also appeared on "The People’s Guide to Power" on Sunday. She said there is a hotline that is being run by a coalition of civil rights organizations on and leading up to Election Day. That number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
"That is a number you should put in your phone and have it on speed dial should you ever need it," Nelson said on the program. "I hope you don't, but you are protected at the polls and you have a right to vote.
And if you want to tell us about something that is happening, you can always email us at email@example.com.