Chelsea voters anxious over election fallout but brave weather and waits to vote

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At a polling site on W.23 in Chelsea—across the street from a Peloton with boarded up windows.
Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

In Chelsea, voters waited in shorter lines to cast their ballots in this year’s presidential election between former Vice President Joseph Biden and President Donald Trump compared to those that early voters endured last week. 

Some poll workers who spoke to amNewYork Metro attributed the shorter wait time to massive voter turnout during the state’s nine days of early voting and the use of absentee ballots. Over a million New York City residents voted early this year after waiting in hours-long lines, according to the city’s Board of Elections. 

Emotions ran high on Tuesday with many Chelsea voters relieved Election Day had finally arrived while remaining anxious over what is yet to come.

“I couldn’t sleep all night,” said Chelsea resident Nicole Fasolino, 40, while waiting in line to vote outside of Visions at Selis Manor, a rehabilitation center and housing complex for the blind on W.26th Street. 

Fasolino teared up as she looked at a row of businesses across the street with plywood covering their windows. Manhattan business owners began boarding up windows on Friday in anticipation of riots after election results. 

“ I can’t believe this day is finally here,” she said. “What are we in for?” 

Chelsea residents wait in a socially-distanced line outside of Visions at Selis Manor, a rehabilitation center and housing complex for the blind, to cast their ballot for the 2020 presidential election. ( Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“I’m slightly scared of people’s reaction on either side… If Trump wins–fuck. If Biden wins–fuck,” said Paulo Pizeu, 22, a Chelsea resident who works in finance. Pizeu said his co-workers are so worried about potential election-related unrest that many have taken the rest of the week off from work in order to avoid setting foot outdoors. 

One colleague told Pizeu that he does not plan on stepping out of his building for at least a month if that’s what it takes to avoid getting caught in clashes between protesters and police. 

Lines kept moving smoothly and safely at IS 70 on W. 17th Street Tuesday. Before polls opened at 6, a block-long line snaked around the school as Chelsea residents faced the cold to perform their civic duty. Poll workers reported that, despite the wait and the weather, voters were excited to vote. The line of cheery voters disappeared by 8:00 a.m. 

A boy, with a blue surgical mask hanging under his chin, waits in front of a boarded-up business to cross a street in Chelsea with his scooter on Nov. 3, 2020. Business owners in the neighborhood have boarded up their shop windows with plywood in anticipation of election-related unrest after the results of the presidential election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President are called. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Jaqueline Lara, 57, brought her son, daughter and wheelchair-bound mother to vote in person at IS 70. Like many of her neighbors, Lara and her family decided to risk COVID and long lines due to a lack of confidence in the Board of Elections’ ability to properly print absentee ballots and fear the Trump administration would interfere with mail-in voting. 

In September, the New York City Board of Elections sent nearly 100,000 absentee ballots with the wrong name or addresses printed on return envelopes and President Trump has said that he would refuse to accept election results from mail-in votes. 

Lara, like so many others, left the polls with mixed feelings–happy to have finally cast her ballot but fearful of potential unrest later in the day. 

“I put an extra lock on my door just in case,” she said. After witnesses looters during the summer’s George Floyd protests break window’s near her home, Lara is taking extra precautions on Election Day. She joked that all New Yorkers should stay indoors for the next 48 hours. ” I really believe it’s going to be a big ride.”

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