Here’s What Early Voters Told Us At The Polls This Weekend

Early voting for the primary kicked off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 12th, and by the time polling places closed for the day, nearly 17,000 New Yorkers had cast their vote for the city’s next mayor, comptroller, judges, and more. Early voting will continue daily through June 20th, and your final day to vote will be Primary Day, June 22nd.

Read More: Early Voting Has Begun — Here’s What You Need To Know

Over the weekend we checked in at polling places around the city (including The Met, which opened its doors to voters for the first time in its 151 years) to talk to New Yorkers who were among the first to experience ranked-choice voting. Pretty much everyone we spoke with understood the basics of the new voting method (a big change since April), and were unwavering on their choices, unconcerned with anything happening in the coming week that would make them want to change their top 5. Here’s what we heard.

George Curran voted Saturday at an early polling site in Bed-Stuy.

George Curran Elizabeth Kim / Gothamist

George Curran, Bed-Stuy

What do you think of ranked-choice voting?

I used to live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [That city] uses ranked-choice voting for the City Council races. So I have a lot of experience doing rank choice voting. It amazes me that more cities, more states don’t use it. If ranked-choice voting was employed by the Republican party in 2016, Donald Trump would not have been the nominee. There were more people opposed to him than who supported him.

Who do you plan to rank?

My first choice would be Maya Wiley, second choice would probably be Kathyrn Garcia, third choice I’m struggling with, but I think I’m going to vote for Scott [Stringer].

What were the issues that were important to you?

Certainly the endorsement by the Working Families Party was key for me in supporting my Wiley and listening to the debate. I thought that she was pretty solid on the progressive issues.

Anil Singh and family

Anil Singh and family Brigid Bergin / Gothamist

Anil Singh, 18, South Ozone Park, senior at Townsend Harris H.S.

How did it feel to cast your ballot?

I’ve come to vote to help my parents before but it was definitely a different experience being able to vote for myself. I feel really proud and happy to be able to have the opportunity to participate in our local elections.

First-time voter and first-time with ranked-choice voting. Was it daunting in any way?

I think with the amount of preparation that’s been going into it, we’ve seen a lot of advertisements and public education around it and honestly getting the ballot, it looked very similar to what we had seen before and it was pretty straightforward. You know, you just rank your choices and yeah, I think it went pretty well.

What are some of the issues that matter most to you?

As a young person obviously climate change is very important to me so really looking for candidates who recognize the threat that it plays. Also, really looking for a candidate who tackle crime at its roots and invest in our communities. I also thought ranked-choice voting made it much better to vote.

Who did you rank?

I ranked Wiley number 1, and then Garcia followed by Shaun Donovan.

Jose Morell

Jose Morell David Cruz / Gothamist

Jose Morell, 72, Bronx resident, retired

Did you understand ranked-choice voting?

Yes. I learned through the TV commercials, advertising, and all that. It was easy, it was very easy.

Who did you vote for?

I like Shaun, Shaun Donovan. Because I like his story, too. Because he had worked to improve the homeless, the housing. Because I’m an Obama fan. And he worked with Obama a long time ago. I was a volunteer for Obama. And to me he’s one of the best presidents we ever had, Obama.

Jessica and Fritz Roque

Jessica and Fritz Roque Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Jessica and Fritz Roque, Upper East Side 

What did you think of ranked-choice voting?

Fritz: I liked it, I gotta say though there were a lot of candidates… trying to choose 5 out of them was tough.

Jessica: I just kept googling information about each candidate. We did the absentee ballot so we filled it out at home, we just dropped it off.

Fritz: In November, I stood in line for like an hour to vote, and realized I could have just gotten an absentee ballot.

Who did vote for?

Fritz: Yang

Jessica: Yang #1

Susan Katz

Susan Katz, 70, Upper East Side 

What did you think of ranked-choice voting?

It was fine mostly, because I looked at all the 4,000 pieces of literature I’ve gotten in the past few weeks.

Who did you vote for?

There’s only one person there who has actually managed, and anyone who can run the sanitation department in this city has my vote. That was before the NY Times endorsed her [Kathryn Garcia]. Hopefully one of my first 3 will get there.

Denise Fryburg

Denise Fryburg, Upper East Side

How was ranked-choice voting for you?

I was prepared, I know how to vote, I know how it works… I had [a strategy].

Who did you vote for?

[I did not rank 5] I voted for Scott Stringer.

Patsy and Khemrej Brijall

Patsy and Khemrej Brijall Brigid Bergin / Gothamist

Patsy Brijall, South Ozone Park

How was ranked-choice voting?

No issues

Who did you rank?

Andrew Yang. I just liked him since he was running for president and I like the way he speaks. You know, they wanted me to vote for Maya, I’m in the union [1199 SEIU] but she was my second choice. I go with my gut, I voted for Andrew. I made my own choice.

Terry Lawson

Terry Lawson, Upper East Side

How was ranked-choice voting for you?

It was very easy. There was no line. This is the first time we get to put in preferences, and have more power be distributed more evenly. I read the booklet that was provided to voters. I read the bios, I’ve seen people campaigning around my neighborhood, I had in mind who I was going to vote for.

Who did you vote for?

I won’t share that.

Gabriel Evans, 74, Vietnam Veteran and retired therapist, Far Rockaway

How long did it take you to fill out your ballot?

I would say anywhere from 3 – 5 minutes. It was easy.

What made you come out on the first day of early voting?

I think the concept of early voting is very appropriate, especially now with all the suppression of the voting laws. With the early voting, there is no crowd, especially since I’m a disabled veteran. I was able to take my time and the instructions were very legible.

What was most important to you when you selected your candidates?

Experience. Consistency in their speech, in other words what they say in the beginning when the microphone was in front of them was the same thing they continuously say all along. Integrity of the candidates, whether perceived or real. Some of the candidates I kind of know personally, I grew up watching them or they grew up under me, I’m older than them.

Who did you rank?

I voted for Eric. I watch Eric as a young man grow up and he was correct, he was abused by the police. And his integrity was that rather than be bitter he and his brother became members of the police department. They are both retired, he as a Captain, the brother I believe as a Sergeant (note: confirmed this with the Adam’s campaign). Scott Stringer and Kathryn Garcia are two and three.

Jose Paez

Jose Paez David Cruz / Gothamist

Jose Paez, Concourse Village, works in court system

Did you understand ranked-choice voting?

It’s okay. It’s good. The only question I really had was if I only wanted to vote for three, do I have to pick all five? And they were like, no. So they were very informative, letting me know what I could do. It was easy. I think that there’s two pages, so that’s a little bit of—people have to make sure that they get to the second page and vote, because there’s judges on there. And that’s really important.

Who did you vote for?

Garcia. I think that she’s what we need here. We need somebody that’s dealt with crises and I think that we’re at the point where we’re almost at a crisis here in New York City.

Emma Weinert, Upper West Side

Did you feel prepared with ranked-choice voting?

I did. I’ve been engaging with some of the campaigns, and I thought they’ve been doing a really good job of preparing voters. And the election workers did a good job of walking me through what I should do and how to fill out the ballots, too.

What were the biggest issues for you in the election?

I think looking at the City Council district, how to approach the homeless issue we’ve been seeing on the Upper West Side, and making sure we’re balancing supporting people experiencing homelessness and also keeping people safe. And in the mayoral election, I think too not just how to recover from the pandemic and the economic crisis, but how to build a better New York. And then also looking at gender and hopefully electing more women to elected offices in the city.

Morgan Sasser voted Saturday at an early polling site in Bed-Stuy.

Morgan Sasser Elizabeth Kim / Gothamist

Morgan Sasser, Bed-Stuy

How did the voting process go?

Everybody was very sweet, very accommodating. It was just me and my partner and probably like two other people.

Did you know about ranked-choice voting?

I’ve seen it advertised on Hulu. We got a mailer at home. So we knew all about it. I thought it was super straightforward. I didn’t take advantage of it as much, probably for like most [races] I did one or two.

What issues are most important to you?

I’m definitely thinking about reforming the NYPD, affordable housing— the price of living in Brooklyn certainly. And the school to prison pipeline.

So who did you vote for?

Maya Wiley was my first choice and Andrew Yang was my second.

Eric Ulrich and daughter

Eric Ulrich and daughter Brigid Bergin / Gothamist

Eric Ulrich, South Ozone Park, Term-limited City Councilmember

You had to choose from two Republican mayoral candidates – who did you pick?

That’s my right to remain private and I’m going to keep that to myself for now. If I was enrolled as a Democrat, which I’m not, and far be it from me to inject myself into Democratic primary politics, but I’d be voting for Eric Adams. He’s the common sense candidate and he’s the only candidate that has a real plan to keep the city safe and also to bring the city together. He seems to be a unifier not a divider and I think he’d do a great job.

What was the issue that was most important to you today?

The issue that was most important to me was the same issue that’s most important to most New Yorkers and that’s crime and public safety. People are concerned about the future of the city and the safety of our communities and I think that Democrats and Republicans this year are going to be voting with that issue at the top of their minds.

I think the city is going to go through a period of soul-searching right now. People are concerned about the future of the city. I think it’s safe to say the winner of the Democratic primary is going to be successful in November and that’s why it’s very important that Democratic voters take this election very seriously and deliberate and make the right choice when it comes to mayor. It’s the most important job in town and this is not something that we can mess up this time.

Laura Skoler, Upper West Side

Do you know about ranked-choice voting?

Of course I do… I’m on a board of directors in France, an art foundation, and we use the same modus as ranked-choice—we use one, two, three… In a way, I might just vote for number… who is going to be a woman.

What issues are most important to you?

Somebody who knows how to run this crazy, wonderful, marvelous city.

What do you think of the candidates running?

There are too many of them! [Laughs] I think it’s very hard despite the fact that you read a lot about them to determine which you’ll feel will be the best for the city. Actually, I don’t care about gender when it comes to the city—women are equally as good as men, it doesn’t matter—but I feel we have to be very careful about who we vote for.

Andrew Yang and voter Rajan Shah

Andrew Yang and voter Rajan Shah Jen Chung / Gothamist

Rajan Shah, 50, Upper West Side

You just met Andrew Yang—is he a leading candidate for you?

Yeah, for me, I think Andrew represents a new way of thinking about government and governing in the city. To me, he brings a new approach to how we’re going to deal with the issues today.

What are the most important issues to you?

Getting the city back after COVID, to make sure we get businesses thriving again. Second, I think we have a real issue with homelessness and inequality and that’s really important. And third is education—I don’t have kids of my own but I know for many that’s been a really big issue.

Do you know about ranked-choice voting?

To be honest, I don’t know as much as I want to and I was planning on learning about it before I vote [next] week. I live right by the voting site!

John Wahlmeier, 33, Upper West Side

Why did you come out early to vote?

I’m active in my local Democratic club, and two-thirds of the City Council is up, we’re getting a new mayor, new comptroller—so as Scott Stringer has been saying, this is the most consequential election we’re going to have in about 25 years.

Can you share who you voted for?

Scott Stringer, Gale Brewer, and Brad Lander.

For ranked-choice, did you have other candidates for mayor?

I ranked Garcia, then McGuire, then Wiley.

What else was important for you with candidates?

Someone who has a history of competence, who is going to focus on core city services. We saw during COVID that Sanitation’s food delivery is very important. Especially my husband and I just moved from Astoria to the Upper West Side during the pandemic, so you see the disparities, even in a wealthier neighborhood in western Queens, compared to here. It’s important we have good core services for everyone.

Alonia Lessington

Alonia Lessington

Alonia Lessington, retired NYPD

We knew what to do actually and we got a lot of stuff in the mail. I went over it before we came. I knew what my first, second, and third choice was going to be.

Who did you vote for?

I think I’ll keep that confidential.

Ingrid Wilson, in her 50s, Bronx resident, NYPD civilian employee

Did you understand ranked-choice voting?

It was fast. It was easy to read. All the names were listed and all you had to do is pick your first pick, second pick. It was lined up. And that was it.

How did you learn about ranked-choice voting?

They’ve been advertising it on TV. They didn’t have to walk me through it. Once they explained what it was on TV and stuff, I was like, ‘oh, okay. It’s just like taking a regular question exam.’ Fill in the blanks and you’re okay.

Who did you vote for?

I voted for Yang. I’m not interested in Adams. He doesn’t–he never appealed to me at all.

Will and Faisel

Will and Faisel, Upper East Side

How did ranked-choice voting go?

Faisel: It was good, I felt good about it. At first, when I found out this was happening, I was confused, but then it made sense and I was excited for it. I think it’s cool you get to have a say in who, if you’re person doesn’t get it you could still have an influence in who it’s going to be.

Will: I feel much more informed about the whole process. Usually you go in, “Oh, I only want this one person,” but now it’s “there’s my top [picks], and this is the person I do not want to be mayor.”

Who did you vote for?

Faisel: I selected Garcia for my #1.

Will: Kathryn Garcia. I selected 5… maybe not that I’d be happy with, but fine to live with. Oh my god, it’s Ray McGuire, behind us…

Ray McGuire outside of the Met on June 12th.

Ray McGuire outside of the Met on June 12th. Scott Lynch / Gothamist