ITHACA N.Y.—Democratic residents in Tompkins County have been (slowly) making their way to various polling locations since polls opened at 6 a.m. to cast ballots in the Democratic Primary race.
Residents in the City of Ithaca are deciding on four new aldermanic candidates to serve in a new cohort on the Common Council.
Enfield residents are voting to elect two town council-people. In the Town of Caroline, voters are deciding on a Town Supervisor, as well as three new Town Board members in an unusually contentious face off between incumbents and fresh political faces. As for the Town of Danby, residents are casting ballots to determine the next Town Clerk.
As of 2:30 p.m. today, official polling numbers from the Tompkins County Board of Elections have not been released, but, according to poll workers at voting locations across the county, voter turn-out has been low and slow.
In the Town of Caroline, voter-turnout has been notably higher than usual, according to Facebook posts published by residents in community groups. By 3:30 p.m., residents reported the polling location at Brooktondale Fire Department ran out of “I Voted!” stickers and had to send out for more.
The Ithaca Voice sent reporters to various polling locations across Tompkins County to observe turn-out, speak to poll workers and see what issues are on the forefront of voters’ minds on primary day.
Concerns about addressing issues like the steady increases in rent and living costs, housing availability, or lack thereof, and looming increases in flood insurance costs drove county Democrats to the polls.
Also, specifically at polling locations in the City of Ithaca, voters told our reporters they care about City Hall functioning as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Ward 5 resident Adrienne Bitar spoke to The Ithaca Voice outside the polling location at Alice Cook House, a Cornell University residential building. She said she is voting because although she does not rent, she recognizes that the increasing rent prices are “not on par” with the “salary most local people make.”
“I think that’s wrong,” Bitar said.
In Ward 3, resident Christine Shelhas-Miller was interviewed outside the Belle Sherman Annex, a public elementary school and another designated polling place. For her, the need for revised zoning ordinances in her student-heavy neighborhood played a part in her showing up to vote.
She said she thinks Ward 3 “needs zoning.” Shelhas-Miller said she lives a couple houses down from student housing, and currently, there’s a home near hers that features a beer pong table and a “grill with one of the doors falling off.”
Shelhas-Miller said despite her love for students, she wants to “live in a family neighborhood” where there is “some control of noise and how many people can be in a house.”
In Ward 1, resident and Cornell University graduate student Arielle Johnson, told The Ithaca Voice outside the Town Hall building that she thinks the issue of homelessness in Ithaca is “really important.” Specifically, the discussion of how to address “The Jungle,” a make-shift homeless encampment in the City of Ithaca.
Andrew Hertzberg, a resident in Ward 2, noted the “astonishing” property tax rates in Ithaca as reason for casting a ballot.
“If someday I’m not able to live here anymore,” Hertzberg said. “It would be because I can’t afford my property taxes anymore.”
Hertzberg moved to the City of Ithaca a year ago and owns a home in Ward 2.
Just a few miles away, in the community of Enfield, residents like voter Jean Owens said when she votes, she considers mostly the expertise and experience a candidate has, rather than honing in on specific issues she cares about.
“It’s important to me that whoever is on the Town Board is understanding to the needs of the community,” Owens told The Ithaca Voice outside the Enfield Community Center.
Polls close at 9 p.m. tonight and results from The Ithaca Voice will follow. Reporter Jimmy Jordan and contributors Jonathan Mong and Julia Senzon reported from the field for this story.