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New Yorkers Head to the Polls in Our First Relevant Primary in Years

By DNAinfo Staff | April 19, 2016 7:07am | Updated on April 19, 2016 12:59pm

 The New York primary has been a mere footnote in recent presidential elections. Not so today.
Presidential Primary in NYC
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NEW YORK CITY — New Yorkers headed to the polls Tuesday to vote in a state primary that could help shape who will become the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.

In recent presidential primary cycles, the two major party candidates had already been decided by the time New Yorkers voted. But in this year's tumultuous election season, New York finds itself in position to influence which candidates win their party's nomination.

READ MORE: Here's Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on New York Issues

With three of the five major candidates touting their ties to New York — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was born here, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a senator here, and Donald Trump continues to call New York home — voters were divided as they left their polling stations.

“I voted for Bernie Sanders to stick it to Hillary Clinton," said Anna Koppersmith, 79, a retired city employee who voted at her 12th Street polling place in the East Village.

"It’s about 70 percent sticking it to Hillary, 30 percent liking Bernie. He’ll never get anything done, but I like his ideas and think he’s an honest man.”

Taxi driver Richard Peterson, 76, who lives in the East Village stopped by to vote before he headed to work.

"I voted for Hillary Clinton. I always have voted for her. I just like how she acts when she talks," he said. "Bernie Sanders is a Johnny-come-lately. He’s a socialist. He’s not a Democrat."

READ MORE: How to Find Your Polling Place for the April 19 Primary

The primary is open only to registered Democrats and Republicans.

On Staten Island, James Thomson, 33, showed up at his polling station at I.S. 61 in West Brighton to cast his vote for Trump, who earned his support for his plain-spoken rhetoric, he said.

"Trump was the only one I thought who wasn't saying things to impress voters," Thomson said, adding that he heard all three of the GOP candidates speak in person. "The guy also has the best chance of breaking the gridlock."

Ben Schwartzberg, 38, of West Brighton, said he also voted for Trump because he thinks he'll run the country like a business. While he doesn’t agree with a lot of things Trump says, he think his business experience will help fix the country and get it out of debt.

“We need to change the tax laws, we can’t even compete with Canada anymore,” said Schwartzberg, who initially supported Ted Cruz until the candidate derided "New York Values."

Other Staten Island voters cast their vote for Clinton. Manuela Barbedo, 88, said she voted for Clinton because, “I want to see a woman in the high house before I die.”

Tuesday's primary brought out some first-time voters, including Rene Severin, 22, who said he was "all giddy," coming out of the voting booth at the Williamsburg Community Center in Brooklyn where he cast his first ballot for Sanders.

He was conflicted because his mother is a long-time Clinton supporter, but he ultimately chose Sanders because of his stance on social, racial and economic injustices.

"I've got to take a chance, I've got to follow my heart," he said.

Jutamas Tiangsuntiah, 36, from Clinton Hill, was also voting for the first time after recently becoming a U.S. citizen. She also favors Sanders.

"I feel so happy," she said. "This is my first time and I picked the right person."

In Hells Kitchen, 27-year-old Thomas Zuzelo — sporting a T-shirt with the word "Feminist" on the front — voted for Hillary.

"I think she's probably the most qualified person in the entire race," he said. "I think this country would also be much better if we only let women run it."

Emily Einhorn, a teacher on the Upper East Side, also cast her vote for Clinton. "It's awesome voting for a woman as a young woman," she said. "There's so much negativity and I think Hillary can be a powerful change agent for good."

But Frank Delessio, and actor and writer from Clinton Hill, thinks Sanders is "the obvious choice for 2016." He said he wants to see an end to greed, corruption and big banks.

"I'm an artist," he said. "All of these crazy condos are going up and it's killing the neighborhood."

Some New Yorkers were still undecided Tuesday.

Millie Santiago, a 52-year-old poll worker who was taking a break outside a polling station in the Financial District Tuesday morning, was torn about who should get her vote.

"Bernie really seems to care about poor people, which is important — and all the young people love him, which I think is good — but Hillary, Hillary would be the first woman president and that means something," she said.

She plans to do more research online before casting her ballot by the end of the day.

"It’s tough," she said. "But I’ll vote."

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Click here to find your polling place.

If you have any problems at your polling station, be sure to let us know.

READ MORE: What to Do If Your Polling Site Can't Find Your Registration

Also, once you're at your polling place, be careful taking a selfie. It could get you into trouble.

READ MORE: You Could Get In Trouble For Taking a 'Ballot Selfie' at Your Polling Place

New Yorkers are not actually voting directly for the candidates Tuesday. They're voting on the number of delegates for each candidate to send to the parties' conventions this summer.

How New York State chooses its delegates is tricky. Here's an explainer on how it's done.