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More than 1.1 million New York City residents voted before Election Day, waiting hours in lines that snaked around city blocks. Hundreds of thousands of people mailed absentee ballots, hoping they would arrive at the elections board and would be counted. And on Election Day, voters came to the polls in droves.

That means there are millions of ballots to officially count in a city where the local Board of Elections took six weeks to declare winners in two closely watched congressional elections after the June primary because it had difficulty counting 400,000 mail-in ballots.

By and large on Tuesday, New Yorkers zipped through polling sites, able to do so because so many voters opted to mail absentee ballots or to vote early. But local boards of elections won’t begin counting absentee ballots for days and the boards must allow time for postmarked, military and overseas absentee ballots to arrive.

Election officials in New York and New Jersey say the next days and weeks will be a waiting game.

New York City is heavily Democratic, going nearly 80 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016, so the state was expected to hand former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. a victory over President Trump. And so it did: The Associated Press called New York for Mr. Biden right after the polls closed at 9 p.m.

More heavily contested races may take a while longer to call, including Nicole Malliotakis’s bid to unseat Representative Max Rose, a Democrat; Ms. Malliotakis, a Republican assemblywoman, declared victory in an Election Night speech on Staten Island, but Mr. Rose has not conceded.

About 2.8 million New York City residents voted in the 2016 presidential election. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, more than 2.3 million city residents had voted in person, either early or on Election Day. At least 551,000 absentee ballots had been returned as of Tuesday night, according to counts released by the city’s elections board.

During a nine-day period, voters had the option to go to the polls early, the first time New Yorkers had that opportunity in a presidential election. Many voters complained about the limited hours and the lack of polling places. There were initially 88 poll sites. By the end of the period, the city’s elections board had expanded hours and had added one additional poll site.

On Tuesday, more than 1,200 poll sites were open in New York City. But some elected and community leaders said the short supply of early poll sites had suppressed the vote in the city.

Local boards of elections won’t begin accounting for every ballot cast — a painstaking process known as canvassing — until at least Nov. 6. That’s the date by which the state Board of Elections anticipates it will complete a review required by state law to ensure no one attempted to vote more than once.

Once that process is complete, counties can begin opening absentee ballot envelopes. Most jurisdictions, including New York City, plan to begin canvassing Nov. 9, nearly a week after Election Day. But others might start earlier or later, like Wayne County, in the Rochester region, which won’t begin its absentee ballot count until two weeks after Election Day.

The counting process may take a while because New York is not accustomed to processing so many mail-in ballots. The pandemic prompted New York, like other states across the country, to expand the option to vote by mail to all voters. The count of June primary ballots overwhelmed officials and took so long that President Trump used the extensive delay to sow distrust of absentee ballots.

Election boards have until Nov. 10 to accept postmarked absentee ballots sent domestically and until Nov. 16 for overseas and military ballots.

Local boards must report their election results to the state by Nov. 28. The state then has until Dec. 8 to send New York’s certified results to the Electoral College.

In New York City, voters can track the status of their mail-in ballots through a new online portal, though some voters have reported issues with the platform, which the city Board of Elections has apparently been slow to update. Up until Election Day, an unknown number of voters were still waiting for confirmation that the board had received their ballots.

Election officials could face further delays because of new laws requiring them to contact voters whose absentee ballots have certain defects that would disqualify their ballot.

Defects that voters will be allowed to “cure” — as it’s known in election jargon — include instances where a voter did not sign the ballot envelope or forgot to properly seal the envelope.

The state approved the new rules on curing ballots after more than 80,000 mail-in ballots were disqualified in New York City during the June primaries because of minor technical flaws.

Local boards are supposed to notify voters about defects via mail, email or phone if a voter provided those means of contact. Those voters will also be provided instructions and an opportunity to cure the defect in person or through mail, fax or email.

At the David Chavis Apartments in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, the line on Tuesday morning was relatively short, but immobile. Issues with the voting system inside caused Clara Odom, 73, to wait 45 minutes, seated in her walker, so she could cast a ballot for Mr. Biden.

“Got to hold on, keep the faith alive,” she said.

By 2:30 p.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office — which does not run the city elections board — had gotten reports of six poll sites opening late, and of 12 broken election machines.

“Overall however, the day seems to be moving along well,” said Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for the mayor.

Voters uses words like “history” and “game changer” to describe the 2020 presidential race.

In the morning, a steady stream of voters poured into a polling site at a public school where Tamara Lee, 37, said she was voting for change.

“I think everybody should vote — young and old,” Ms. Lee said. “Go out and let your voice be heard.”

Though New York City is predominantly Democratic, pro-Trump pockets flourish in some areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Tensions flared between supporters of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden near at least one poll site.

A Trump supporter in a white SUV truck got into a verbal altercation with a voter at a polling site in the South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Kathy Park Price, a volunteer election observer, captured part of the dispute on video. The police later came to the scene, she said, and stayed until the man departed.

“The voting process should be safe, number one, as a baseline rule,” Ms. Park Price said in an interview. “And it should be inclusive and welcoming. It should not be problematic like that.”

Unlike New York State, New Jersey did not have early in-person voting. But as of Tuesday at 6 p.m., more than 3.8 million mail ballots had been returned — 96 percent of the total turnout four years ago.

That number does not include ballots that were hand-delivered to polling locations or provisional paper ballots cast on Tuesday, leaving New Jersey poised for a record-breaking turnout in the state’s first presidential election conducted primarily by mail.

On Tuesday in the parking lot of a mini-mall in Willingboro, N.J., Tonya Brown, 48, a Democratic campaign volunteer, said the uncertainty of mail voting had left her on edge.

“We probably won’t know tonight,” Ms. Brown said. “How do you count that many ballots?”

Matthew Sedacca, Elisha Brown and Tracey Tully contributed reporting.





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