Early voting for the general election kicked off on Saturday, with New Yorkers asked to make big decisions in several key races for statewide seats, Congress, and the governorship.

This year marks the first time New Yorkers cast ballots for governor during the early voting period, which runs through Nov. 6. It also comes amid guidance issued by the state attorney general’s office on how to handle any instances of voter intimidation.

Schools, churches, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art are serving as poll sites, which opened at 9 a.m. across the five boroughs on Saturday.

Early voting in New York began in 2019 after it was passed by the state Legislature as a way of easing long lines at poll sites while encouraging greater turnout.

Voters in Lower Manhattan voiced a range of concerns on Saturday morning, from voter suppression to abortion access inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

A steady stream of people turned up at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Lower Manhattan on Saturday morning to cast their early votes for this year's general election.

Among them was Irene Dowd, 76, who teaches anatomy for dancers at the Juilliard School.

“I think that if we consider: Are we a culture of cruelty, or are we a culture of love? I hope...” she said, her voice breaking, “that we can be a culture of love and cooperation.”

Several voters who spoke to Gothamist said the congressional seats at stake — which could determine the balance of power in Washington — were a chief impetus for voting.

Denise Richards, a Manhattan advertising professional, said what drove her to vote was straightforward.

“To keep the Democratic Party in power,” she said. “And to keep many Republicans out of power. There are far too many who are aligning with Trump, and there are far too many who are afraid to say they're not aligning with Trump.”

And Democrats in Washington have rallied around the cause of abortion rights, hoping to galvanize voters angered by the Roe v. Wade decision.

Paul Arthur Miller, 67, a Manhattan actor and writer, cited that cause as a reason he went out to vote.

“In other words, women’s choice,” he said. “They should be in charge of their own belly and their own womb. And that's very important to me.”

"If I don’t have my rights then to me the pocketbook doesn’t matter," said Rick Farmer, who cast his early vote today at Hunter College.

Rick Farmer, 55, voted at Hunter College/Brookdale Campus in Manhattan. Stating that he voted only for Democrats, he is most concerned with the rising cost of living but he wants to make sure social issues get addressed with his vote.

“I don’t vote with my pocketbook,“ said Farmer, a Kips Bay resident who works in real estate. “I am gay, and if I don’t have my rights, then to me the pocketbook doesn’t matter."

"The Democrats aren’t perfect, but they’re much more on our side than the Republicans — even though they allude to be on the side of gays and other minorities,” he continued.

Alexandra Frohlingel, an actor, said the environment and abortion rights are on the top of her mind heading into this election. She went through a voting guide to figure out who she should cast her votes for, because she thinks it requires both sides to fully get the job done.

“When you vote, it's not a love letter; it’s a strategic chess move to control the world we live in — or at least express your opinion,” Frohlingel said. “What is relevant is the fact that women’s rights are in danger, and the planet is dying.”

She added, “I want to know that I have done absolutely everything that I can do to enact change in a way that I think is important and effective. We have several seats in contention, and the ramifications are immense.”

"I want to know that I have done absolutely everything that I can do to enact change in a way that I think it's important and effective," said actor Alexandra Frohlingel, who voted on Saturday.

It’s unclear how many New Yorkers have come out to cast ballots so far. The city Board of Elections typically releases a daily tally of early voters. On the first day of early voting for the rare August primary — where voters cast ballots only for congressional and state Senate candidates — 9,087 people in New York City came out to vote. In total, 76,335 came during the early voting period for the August primary. Overall turnout for that election, including on Primary Day, was low.

But early voting has its share of enthusiasts.

“I love early voting,” said Marla Berman, a 62-year-old psychotherapist, who said she had voted in every election since she turned 18. “The one thing about being a good voter is you get stuck in a lot of lines, so this is terrific.”

On Friday, the state attorney general’s office said New Yorkers who witness voter intimidation — which might include poll watchers discouraging voters from casting ballots, standing near privacy booths or forbidden sections of a poll site, or videotaping voters within a polling place — can report it to the office.

Anyone experiencing what they believe to be voter intimidation can call the state attorney general’s office hotline at 866-390-2992 or submit a complaint online here.