Election day in Utica was something of an anxiety rollercoaster. In the days leading up, the fear in everyone’s mind was civil war 2. However, as the day progressed and calmness prevailed, the tension diminished only to resurge as many people thought, “is this the calm before the storm?”. Of course, the ongoing Vote count is an anxiety rollercoaster in its own right.
Recognizing the gravity of this election, Robert Perry and I took a tour of Utica’s polling locations to get a sense of the day.
We started at MVCC where we saw former Mayor candidate Joe Marino voting. When asked who he voted for, Marino simply said, “I voted for democracy today, as I always do.”
E. Handzel: “Would you say there’s more riding on this election than most?”
J. Marino: “You know, every year, everyone says, ‘that this election is the worst thing that’s gonna happen to the country if one person wins or the best if another [person wins]. I just think that people really need to look at local politics vs. a local politician. Everything starts at home. You really need to take care of your neighborhoods and then your neighbors next. And then, whoever the president is, you need to support. But you also gotta make sure that you hold these people accountable, whoever they are. So, if you’re a Trump fan, you gotta hold Donald Trump accountable. You can’t be a blind follower of anything. Biden is the same. That starts with local politics, so coming out today is important.”
He ended by saying that it’s important to hold your representatives accountable, from local to the president himself, but that overall he feels the area is moving in a good direction politically.
Inside of MVCC, we spoke with one of the voting officials. She told us that the day had been very calm with no observed disturbances. She said that this election day felt no different than any other in terms of visible tension. I asked her how difficult it was to remain impartial in her job and she said that it wasn’t difficult at all because of respect for the job and that she was just happy to see people vote.
At the Parkway Poll, we saw the highest turnout. The typically diverse Utican crowd of Muslims, SE Asians, Latinos, Slavs, etc all practicing social distancing as they hurried along to cast their ballots.
Onto the North Utica Polling Center. We had heard that Jim Zecca’s CNY’ers for Trump/Tenney was stationed outside of the polling location proselytizing their candidates. A man with a Biden sign spoke to us of what he perceived to be as mild intimidation. Roughly ten Trump supporters were standing by the entrance of the polling location. They were well outside the 100yd line but this one Biden supporter said several people complained that these Trump supporters were intimidating voters by occasionally standing in the road, shouting, jeering, and not wearing masks (though when we talked to them, they all had masks). None of what the Biden supporter said was substantiated.
One of the Trump supporters commented on how this election was different, “This is the one we woke up to. We were asleep for so long” hinting at perceived lost liberties.
It’s worth noting that the front lawn was dominated be Trump signs and there was one Brindisi sign moved out of sight behind a telephone pole and another Brindisi sign that had been stomped on. When asked, the Trump supporters knew nothing of this.
We found our way to the Jewish Community Center next. The Polling official (possibly the director) at the Jewish Community Center told us both of how he was excited that Trump would assuredly win and strengthen the economy, an issue he believes to be paramount. Their vote count at 7:00 pm was 1,600, so they had certainly seen a robust turnout.
We rounded the night at the bars of Varick street where we figured all major post voting considerations occur. One after the other, each bar’s patrons watched the news while enjoying their drinks. Not surprisingly, in one bar a shouting match broke out between two customers of opposite political camps, but ended with the instigator leaving the bar. And that was the extent of the political unrest in the area. Some sign tampering, a little tension amongst supporters, and some shouting over beers. But overall, the first day of the count was peaceful. Shall it remain so is of course the big question.