Queens voters bring their passions to the polls

By TimesLedger Staff

Queens voters went to the polls Tuesday under a bright blue sky to cast their votes in either the Democratic or Republican primary. TimesLedger reporters have fanned out across the borough to take the pulse of the primary races as Hillary Clinton faces off against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic line and Queens native Donald Trump vies for the Republican nod against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Bayside voters split their votes

Don Galiano is the precinct coordinator for PS 41 in Bayside, where he said turnout was higher than usual. Well over 200 people had voted by midmorning, and more were expected to show up as the lunch hour hit. Galiano said he would like to see the next president do something right for the middle class.

“The middle class is being destroyed,” he said. “I feel bad for my kids and grandkids.”

“I was originally an independent voter, but I changed my party affiliation so I could vote in the primary,” said Eleanor, a voter supporting Bernie Sanders.

A Clinton support said, “Issues concerning Medicare, security, and environmental conditions are why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton.”

A voter who backs Donald Trump said, “ Taxes are a major issue. New York state taxes are highest, second to California. And illegal immigration is a major issue,” .

Another voter who preferred to be anonymous said economics were paramount for him and he wanted the next president to find a way of avoiding another financial meltdown.

Still another voter who visited the PS 41 site said: “I’m voting for Bernie because he’s authentic.”

Mark Hallum

Some voters confused at Queens Botanical Garden site

Flushing resident Henry Tan, 78, polling place coordinator at the Queens Botanical Garden, said that there were some issues at the site.

Tan said one voter, a registered Democrat, wanted to vote for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, and only vote outside of her party this time, but he told her that she could not. Another woman came to the polling site with her two children and could not find her name in the book. Her children were both listed and she said she had not changed her address. He directed her to fill out an affidavit oath, which would permit her vote.

He also said that there were two or three voters who did not have a party affiliation.

But he was happy to have seen decent voter turnout.

“For us workers, the good thing is that a lot of people came out to vote,” Tan said.

For his part, he said he voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich because of his solid record as an elected official.

“I think Kasich is an accomplished politician,” Tan said. “He did a very good job as governor of Ohio and he’s a very good congressman. He was in for over 15 years, so he’s reasonable.”

He also said Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been popular because they are offering a more attractive alternative to voters.

“They don’t want people who give realistic hope because that’s not exciting,” he said. “A realistic goal is not exciting…they want to have a dream, not a fact.”

Madina Toure

Fewer Flushing voters fill in the circles for Republicans

Janet Samon, 50, of Flushing, who is the site’s table inspector, said that as of 12 p.m., 86 Democrats and 19 Republicans came to the polling site. She said voter turnout was lower on the Republican side.

“They’re not really coming out like that, but can you blame them?” Damon said. “They don’t really have a lot of good choices.”

She is voting later today and said she was split between Sanders and Clinton, saying she admired Hillary’s experience but has come to learn about what Bernie has to offer over time.

“I found out that he’s been involved in politics a long time and that he’s a people’s people,” she said.

Flushing resident Lilia Vazquez, 84, a Colombian native, said she voted for Clinton because her husband, former President Bill Clinton, did a good job while he was president and that she is interested in seeing a woman hold the position.

She also said Hillary and Bill have helped her out in her life, noting that when she was unable to find her Social Security number, the Clinton administration helped her find it.

“We want to see change, to see a lady be a president, and I like her husband,” Vazquez said as a friend translated.

Madina Toure

Voters flock to Bayside HS site

The voter turnout at Bayside High School was on the high side with more than 500 showing up by midday, according to the poll coordinator. yellow tape blocked off the part of the cafeteria where the students ate lunch, leaving the majority of the space for the voting populace.

A voter by the name of Debra said, “I’m a longtime clinton supporter and I felt the need to be here to support her in the primary. She stands for the things I stand for.”

Adrienne, another voter, said. “I went with Bernie, because of the feeling that I want something different. I want there to be a change,”

A woman who identified herself as Ruth told TimesLedger about the issues that were important for her in the primary election. “I’m supporting Clinton. Issues that are important to me are gun control, women’s rights, equal pay, the climate.”

Peter, a Bayside Democrat, said: “We’ve never gotten back to where we were when the economy fell apart. I voted for Hillary because I feel that she has a better chance of getting things done. Whereas Bernie, for all his good qualities, is more of a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, like it’s going to be christmas day but it’s not.”

Mark Hallum

Some voters ask to change party affiliation at Hollis polls

At the Hillside Village Coop in Hollis, poll workers said the turnout had been robust throughout the morning. One worker said there had been a line outside the door when the polls had opened at 6 a.m. As with the other poll locations, everyone expected a greater rush after work at 5 p.m.

“There’s been no dry spot,” said Marilyn Lee, one of the poll workers. “And the later it gets, the worse it’s going to be.”

The site’s polling coordinator was running from table to table, answering different questions from voters. She agreed that the turnout had been “phenomenal” thus far, and said there had been several instances of people wanting to re-enroll with a different party affiliation.

“Some people want to change what they’re registered for from Republican to Democrat,” she said, “which is awkward.”

The coordinator’s awkwardness stemmed from the fact that New York’s primary is closed, which means that voters can only vote for the candidates running in the party in which they are enrolled. The deadline to change party affiliation was Oct. 9, 2015. Independents will not be able to vote in today’s primary or registered voters who want to switch parties at the poll site.

Patrick Donachie

Pay inequality at Astoria polling site at $11.76 an hour

Loretta Csikortos had a difficult morning. The 73-year-old precinct coordinator at PS 85 in Astoria dealt with more than 1,100 voters before 11 a.m. and she was shorthanded.

“Fourteen of my inspectors and two of my information people didn’t bother to show up today,” Csikortos said. “Can you blame them? We’re here from 5 a.m. and we’re expected to be here until 10 p.m. We get $200 for 17 hours. If it’s like this on Election Day, they better just shut this one down. We’re really juggling here.”

She was interrupted by a staffer who asked if someone from College Point could vote at PS 85.

“What the hell is College Point doing here?” she asked.

Chris Escandon, 24, works around the corner and was hoping he could vote by affidavit. He was told his vote may not be counted.

“If that’s the case, I’ll just wait until I get home,” he said. “I’d rather vote at home and make sure it counts because this is such a pivotal moment for the country. We have no idea where we are headed.”

Meanwhile, Csikortos had moved on to another crisis. Born and raised in Astoria, this is her 55th year working at the polls as an inspector or coordinator.

“Believe it or not, I have seen worse,” she said. “I’ve been in Astoria my whole life, and I’m going to die in Astoria, too. I just hope it’s not today!”

— Bill Parry

Youth vote evident in Fresh Meadows

At Hillcrest Jewish center in Fresh Meadows, voting slowed somewhat at midday, but poll workers expect a huge uptick later on. Poll worker Annam Malik said that it had been busier than other primaries that morning.

“The youth vote, I heard about it on the news, but now I’m actually seeing it,” Malik said.

Asked if it had been busy, he said: “Definitely because I think this is the first primary in a while that New York is a battleground.”

He noted that “During the presidential election it’s always packed but the primaries are usually slower.”

Pat Goeller, a Trump supporter, said: “If we can give Obama eight years with no experience, we can give him a shot.”

— Patrick Donachie

Turnout steady in Jamaica

At Public School 82Q in Jamaica, poll workers said turnout had been steady since voting began at 6 a.m., though they noted it wasn’t particularly crowded compared to years past. Poll worker Mary Walker said she had not seen anyone turned away from voting because of not knowing it was a closed primary.

“We’ve been active since we opened up,” she said. “Around dinnertime that’s when it’s going to get busy.”

Mohammed Almamun, a Jamaica resident said, “We’re choosing the right person to be the commander in chief, who will minimize the disputes and disagreements around the world.”

He declined, however, to disclose who he had voted for.

“People should focus on the final election,” Almamum said. “Who can unify the people and not split them up into categories.”

Samuel Adjei, another Jamaica resident who preferred to keep his primary favorite to himself, said: “We don’t want people who just talk, talk, talk. We want someone who can do the job.”

— Patrick Donachie

Voter numbers strong at PS 199 in Sunnyside

In the five years that Peter Montoro has been precinct coordinator at PS 199 in Sunnyside, he’s never seen a heavier turnout than he has this morning, where 414 voters had cast their ballot by 10 a.m.

“I have no inkling which way they are voting,” Montoro said. “I did have to ask one man to remove his Bernie Sanders button because promotional material is not allowed inside. If that was Bernie mania, it’s all I’ve seen this morning.”

Montoro was puzzled by one voter’s comment, however.

“One man said he was voting for Bernie in the primary, but he’d vote for Trump in the general,” he said. “I’m not sure I understand that logic at all.”

That voter was Bobby Scott, a resident of the neighborhood since 1942. The registered Democrat explained his strategy on the way out of PS 199.

“I can’t vote for Hillary,” Scott said. “She’s not for the U.S. She’s for Hillary Clinton. I’ll vote for Trump in the general election because nobody owns Donald Trump.”

— Bill Parry

Voting interrupted briefly at Flushing school by code yellow

Over at PS 20 on Barclay Avenue, Flushing resident Daisy Kelly, 38, who moved to New York from Florida five years ago, said she has been voting since she was 18 years old.

Kelly said she is voting for Bernie Sanders because she appreciates his platform and message.

“I voted for Sanders and I like what he says about free education and healthcare,” Kelly said. “That should be a right, not a privilege and I’m excited to see it happen.”

Flushing resident Jose Barcelo, 70, who has been living in the neighborhood for 40 years, voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because of her qualifications.

“She’s the only one with experience,” Barcelo said. “Mr. Sanders has very great ideas, but I don’t think it’s possible.”

A few voters were annoyed when they were forced to remain in the school’s gym for about five minutes when code yellow was briefly instituted at about 9:55 a.m. due to either someone being sick or a possible missing child. It was quickly lifted.

— Madina Toure

Voters step up to the polls at PS 20 but fewer than expected

Flushing resident John Mongiat, 61, has been a poll worker at PS 20 and PS 244 in Flushing for the last seven years.

He had been at the polling site since 5 a.m. and had seen at least 100 people come to vote, noting that there are certain times of the day where many people come and other times where it is a small number of people.

Between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., a reporter observed at least 30 people coming to the site to vote.

“It’s been brisk, but slower than I thought it would be,” Mongiat said. “It’ll probably pick up later when everyone gets out of work.”

— Madina Toure

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