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First day of early voting brings out the crowd in Riverhead and Southold

Early voting began in New York State Saturday morning, with long lines at both the Southold and Riverhead locations well before the 10 a.m. opening.

Voters who arrived just before the opening at the Southold Senior Center in Mattituck found a line of well more than 100 people snaking along the edge of the parking lot and spilling out onto Pacific Street. One poll watcher said people were lined up when he arrived at 8 a.m.

People who arrived at 10 a.m. were able to vote within 90 minutes to two hours. Inside the center poll workers checked registered voters on a county-wide computer database maintained by the Suffolk Board of Elections; people were then directed to another station to pick up a ballot – and were politely reminded to examine both sides of the ballot – and then to booths where the ballot could be filled out privately.

Completed ballots were then fed into one of the four machines on the premises. Only four people were allowed inside the center at a time.

See also: Guide to early voting

By early afternoon, the parking lot at the Senior Center on Shade Tree Lane in Aquebogue was filled, with cars lined up and down the street and a number of Riverhead Town police officers directing traffic and keeping the line moving in an orderly fashion.

Kathy, who did not want to use her last name, said she and her husband drove out from New York City because they can legally vote in Suffolk County. She said they first stopped at Brookhaven Town Hall — one of three early voting locations in that town — but the line there was “incredible.”

“They said it would be a four to five hour wait,” she said. “So we came here.”

She estimated they would wait at least two hours before they could vote in Aquebogue. “It’s a long wait, but we are here to vote.”

Police officers at the scene estimated more than 200 had voted by noon. Both the Mattituck and Aquebogue locations are open over the weekend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are open Monday at 7 a.m. Both centers were expected on Saturday to handle perhaps as many as 500 voters each – this on the first day of early voting, which continues through Nov. 2.

Outside the Aquebogue center, John said he came with his wife, Karen. Asked why he wanted to vote on the first day and wait in a long line, he said, “That was my wife. She wanted to vote. She felt there’d be less chance her vote could be messed with if she did it early. You know the saying, happy wife, happy life.”

After voting, Rocco walked to his car on Shady Tree Lane. “I got here at five after ten,” he said, looking at his watch. “Now it’s five after 1. I just felt I had to come.”