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More than 28,000 take advantage of first weekend of early voting in Erie County

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
This line of early voters was outside the St. John De LaSalle Center in Niagara Falls.

By the time the second day of Erie County's early voting closed Sunday night, 4.5% of the county's voters had cast their ballots. Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said that translated into 28,000 ballots during the first weekend of early voting - more than the total number of ballots cast in last year's general election.

Last year, in a non-presidential election year, the nine days of early voting produced nearly 27,000 ballots. This year, the first two days produced more than 28,000 votes - and that's with new registration pushing up the registered voter total to 630,000, up 37,000 from last year.

In Niagara Falls, a continually refreshing line of voters were at the St. John De LaSalle Center, one of two early-voting sites in the county. That is where Suhana Monsalve had academic reasons for voting early.

"I actually have three exams on Nov. 3, so,I can't really vote on the official Election Day," Monsalve said. "But I just think it's really important. Civic duty is really important and I think this election is one of the more important elections we've probably had and it's also my first time ever that I'm voting."

While most of those interviewed made clear they were interested in the presidential election, Anita Muzzi was intensely interested in the open Niagara County District Attorney seat.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Early voters line up at the Cheektowaga Senior Center Sunday.

"I'm here for Brian Seaman, all the way, and for the only reason is that he has the actual experience," Muzzi said. "He's been an assistant DA. He's tried felony cases. His opponent has not, and that's pretty scary as a parent and a resident in Lewiston."

The other early voting site in Niagara County is in Lockport.

While many people waiting in line made it clear they didn't want to deal with expected massive lines on the official Election Day, some said they could have mailed in their ballots, but they wanted to fill out their ballot and watch it run through the voting machine.

Rodney was at the Cheektowaga Senior Citizens Center.

"This election is so important, probably the most important in my life," Rodney said. "I felt that I had to do it to make sure my vote counted."

Dave Moreno was also standing in line to vote in Cheektowaga.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Because it's the first chance," Moreno said. "I came here the first day. It was ridiculous. So that's why I'm here now because I figured everyone's watching the Bills and I might have a chance to get in here quicker. That's why I'm here."

Kyle Gorlick voted at the Gloria Parks Center in Buffalo's University District.

"Wanted to get the vote in and you hear about potential civil unrest. Police departments around the country are talking about that, come voting day. I figured I might as well get it in, while the Bills are doing their thing," Gorlick said.

Wearing her "Black Lives Matter" face mask, Davenia McGee also voted at Gloria Parks.

"The Black Lives Matter issue, they just put a name to it. It's always been there," McGee said. "I am 44 years young. I don't mind sharing my age. Been here since I was a kid. So it's just now coming to a time where it's coming back from back in Martin Luther King days, where we're beginning to fight more. Social media has brought that about."

Erie County has 37 sites, with at least one in every town. Early voting continues through Sunday.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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