'My vote matters': New Yorkers explain why they made the extra effort to vote early

During a year of pandemic, protests, natural disasters, and economic uncertainty, Americans are eager to have their votes counted.

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"Black folks didn't always have the right to vote," says George McAllister, who was on his way to vote in Rochester, New York. "People have died and marched. Why not use what they suffered for us to have?" As of October 29, nearly two million New York residents had voted early, whether in person or absentee.

'My vote matters': New Yorkers explain why they made the extra effort to vote early

During a year of pandemic, protests, natural disasters, and economic uncertainty, Americans are eager to have their votes counted.

In a historic election year, more than 80 million Americans have voted early, the largest early voter turnout in United States history.

Issues such as COVID-19, which has infected eight million people and resulted in the deaths of 228,000 Americans, and racial justice, which has inspired ongoing protests, have motivated many voters to cast their ballots, the most fundamental way to participate in democracy and bring about change. (Counting votes as always been complex—but the rise of mail-in voting makes for a particularly challenging election.)

Lovely and Timothy Granison brought their daughter, Taylor, to the polls in Rochester, New York, to show her the importance of exercising the right to vote.

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On the first day of early voting in New York City, Michael and Sheila McAllister prepared for long lines by bringing a chair. "We Black people need to stand up for our rights," said Sheila.

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Alice and Ross Sandler, married for 52 years, waited outside the Madison Square Garden polling place. They voted early in person because they worried about mailing their ballots.

“I believe that my vote matters because I have a daughter who's growing up in this country, and I want her to have the same freedoms that I experience,” said Lovely Granison. “I know that right now we are fighting for the soul of America."

Many factors account for the surge in early voting. Some voters worry that mailed absentee ballots won’t arrive in time to be counted due to problems with the U.S. Postal Service. Others fear waiting in election day crowds amid the pandemic. In Texas, where nearly nine million people have already voted, young voters have driven increased participation.

MOVE Texas—its name stands for “Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower.”—has worked to encourage Texas’s young voters to embrace voting.

“The historic youth voter turnout we’re seeing across Texas is a direct result of the years of work to change the culture of voting in the Lone Star State,” said Charlie Bonner, MOVE Texas's communications director.

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Lovely and Timothy Granison brought their daughter, Taylor, when they voted early in Rochester, New York. "I believe that my vote matters because I have a daughter who's growing up in this country," said Lovely. "I want her to have the same freedoms that I experience and I know that right now we are fighting for the soul of America."

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Larry Ravdin voted at the only early voting site in Sullivan County, a swing county in New York.

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Alexander Navarro is "hopeful for change," he said, as he stood in line at the Madison Square Garden polling station.

The number of early voters in some states is already approaching total turnout in the 2016 presidential election: Some 95 percent of total turnout in Texas, 86 percent in Montana, and just over 80 percent in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, according to the United States Elections Project, a University of Florida based group that analyzes election statistics.

Voters across the country are hopeful that they will have an impact. Victor Morales from Brooklyn, New York, believes the decisions he makes now on the ballot will affect the future.

“Democracy means the future for my children,” Morales said. “What I do now counts for how they're going to grow up."