EAST VILLAGE — Meisheng Zhou worked as a Chinese interpreter at the poll site inside the Sirovich Center on Election Day in 2008. He also worked the same East 12th Street site for the mayoral election a year later and for various primaries since.
“Before, not as many people came, and we’d be sitting here idle,” Zhou, 65, said.
But at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, he looked down East 12th Street toward First Avenue and was shocked to see people already lined up.
“I’ve never seen so many people,” he said. “We had to rush things to be ready for them. Everything is smooth, but it’s keeping me busy.”
Across the East Village, voters flocked to polling locations early to cast their ballots in the presidential election and other local races.
They were met with cold temperatures outside, long lines and, in a few cases, confusion. But many said it was a small price to pay for having a say in government.
“I believe in the democratic process,” said Keith Canton, 62, outside the Theater for New City on First Avenue between East Ninth and 10th streets. “I think this country has the privilege of voting, and we shouldn’t take it for granted.”
Andrew Skim, 40, a native of Australia, said he was voting in his first American election and was surprised to see how businesslike it was.
“In Australia, they vote on a Saturday, and it’s more of a social environment,” said Skim, who works for a legal-consulting company.
“A lot of the community groups will put on barbecues and feed people. But here, this was a lot faster than I thought it would be. People were really helpful. They explained how to correctly vote and how to fill in the ballot correctly.”
While Skim had nothing but praise for his polling site on East Fourth Street, back at the Sirovich Center, voter Rebecca Hellerman said the lack of organization made casting a ballot chaotic.
“There were a bunch of different lines and you didn’t know which one to go into,” said Hellerman, 47, who works in marketing. “Then the people who were actually giving you all the things you needed to vote were yelling at each other and didn’t seem to know what was going on. It was a less than a stellar experience.”
But Canton said he enjoyed the two-block long line at the Theater for New City, because it gave him a chance to meet other voters.
“It’s fantastic to see this many come out for the election today,” he said. “I didn’t even think about the amount of time I was on line. The people next to me were fantastic. We read, talked. It was good.”