Voters fill out ballots in booths after waiting several hours in line during early voting in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Voters on Long Island and beyond are expected to turn out in record numbers despite the coronavirus pandemic to cast their ballots in a contentious presidential contest on Tuesday for Election Day.

During the nine-day early voting period, 345,416 ballots were cast, with 223,280 in Nassau County and 122,136 in Suffolk County — a 634 percent increase over the 47,030 early votes cast last year, the first election when the option was available in New York State. Voter turnout is traditionally higher in presidential election years, and this was the first race for the White House during an early-voting period in New York, but overall turnout may be the highest in more than a century. Officials are preparing for possible unrest at the polls and once the results are announced.

“Nassau County and the dedicated members of our police department have prepared to ensure a safe voting environment for all on Election Day, just as they did throughout the early voting period,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy and I encourage everyone to make their voices heard.”

More than 2.5 million early votes were cast across New York State. More than 95 million Americans had cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election by Monday, according to a tally by the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, a harbinger of what is expected to be the highest turnout of modern times. Just a day before Election Day, the record-breaking number is equal to 69 percent of the entire voter turnout for the 2016 election.

Besides President Donald Trump, a Republican, facing former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, at the top of the ticket, also on ballots this year are congressional races, New York State Senate seats, state Assembly members, and judicial posts.

Suffolk County voters also have to flip over their ballots to decide a pair of referenda. In proposition one, county legislators are trying again to have their terms doubled from two to four years. Proposition two would forgive $183 million the county owes the Drinking Water Protection Program and allow Suffolk to borrow $15 million more from the fund.

The unofficial early returns that local boards of elections share on election night may not be a clear indicator of who won a particular race, depending on the margin of victory and how many absentee ballots there are in a given district. Experts say it may take days or even weeks to process the huge number of mail-in ballots, spurred by voters seeking to avoid crowded polling stations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nassau and Suffolk each have received more than 100,000 requests for absentee ballots.

Americans cast a record 137 million ballots in 2016, according to University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald. Still, another 100 million eligible adults did not participate. 

Some experts predict turnout could be significantly higher this year as Trump’s polarizing presidency has galvanized voters across the political spectrum, including millions who stayed home four years ago. McDonald predicts as many as 150 million ballots could be cast in 2020. It could hit 67 percent, which would be the highest turnout since 1908.

Authorities are standing by to receive complaints of voter intimidation or fraud. Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them. 

To report incidents directly to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, call 718-254-6790.

After absentee ballot voters have received, filled out, signed, dated, and secured an absentee ballot in the envelope provided, it must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the board of elections by Nov. 10, but the post office does not guarantee mail will arrive in less than two weeks. Military ballots must be received by Nov. 13. And absentee ballots dropped off in person must be received by Nov. 3 and handed to an election worker.

Voters can cast their ballots in person at their local polling place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Masks and social distancing will be required. To check if you’re registered to vote, find your polling place visit voterlookup.elections.ny.gov

-With Reuters

Related Story: Key Dates To Watch For 2020 Election Voters

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.