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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Sticker Transcends Translation in NYC Hood

ASTORIA, N.Y. (CN) — In one of New York City's most diverse neighborhoods, a polling site helped Bengali, Korean, Spanish and Chinese speakers take part in U.S. democracy, but the famous "I Voted" stickers required no translation.

The largely immigrant community here collected the Lady Liberty stickers in droves from the time the Queens performing arts school P.S. 234 opened its doors at 6 a.m., until voters cleaned out their supply by the early afternoon.

Steven Velez, a 50-year-old dental assistant here, said that he initially had to leave the line when he arrived at 6:15 a.m., but he was "very happy" that the high turnout sent him packing.

"It was a good sign because it means people were actually coming out and voting," he said.

By the time his boss let him return in the mid-afternoon, the lines had dwindled down, and Velez said that he cast an enthusiastic vote for Hillary Clinton.

"I've been voting for 30 years of my life, and I've never come across a candidate who's more ready and more experienced to take the mantle than anyone did before," he said of the Democratic contender. "Usually, you're a senator. You're a governor. You're a mayor."

Between Clinton's credentials as secretary of state and two-time former first lady, Velez said, her experience is beyond question.

"Say what you want to say about her, she's met with every dignitary, every prince, every queen, throughout the world," he said outside the school. "And I think that she's going to be great for the country."

During the primary season, the Astoria neighborhood had been one of the pockets of New York City that leaned toward Clinton's former rival Bernie Sanders, but Clinton had largely won over the area's voters interviewed for this article in time for the general election.

Parveen, a 28-year-old in the fashion industry, was one such voter who reported that she was for "Hillary, of course."

Asked why, she replied: "For the obvious reasons, not Trump."

She added that she had been for Clinton, as much as she was against her Republican rival, but that she still had some reservations.

"I'm not sure if it'll be the same old, same old," Parveen said. "I was a bit disappointed with Obama."

In particular, Parveen had been disappointed that Obama failed to deliver on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

"He deported more people under his watch than any other president," she added, referring to Obama.

The sitting president will leave office with a strong record on advancing gay rights, and defending those gains had been forefront on the mind of Daniel, a 40-year-old information-technology engineer.

"I'm a long-term Democrat," Daniel said. "I think the Republican party, their values are not what I believe in. As a homosexual, they don't believe that I am an actual person."

Reporting "minimal lines," Daniel said that his voting experience "apparently" went without a hitch, but he kept a wary eye about the machine that scanned his ballot.

"I don't know if the machine actually works," he said. "Nobody knows, right?"

"Someone knows," he hedged. "As a software engineer, I'm skeptical about software that I can't see."

As in all U.S. elections, suspicion lurked been in all political corners, especially for supporters of Donald Trump, who spent the general election season attacking the entire process as "rigged."

Edda, a 65-year-old Trump voter who works in retail cosmetics, looked askance toward immigrant neighbors.

"We've had refugees before," she said. "We've had foreigners before, but I think that they went to this country to assimilate, but now we have a group that just wants to take and not be part of us. And I noticed a lot of those people seem to be here tonight. True Americans, maybe a lot of them are afraid to come out, are afraid to say something."

Her remarks are all the more ironic considering that Edda says that she emigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s, from East Germany.

She joked that her immigration concerns revealed her political sensibilities.

"So I think you can tell, I am a very proud deplorable," she said.

Tensions were so high on Election Day that one young woman laughed nervously when asked about her vote.

"I don't want to say," she said, before revealing that she was a closet third-party voter.

"Okay, I'm anonymous," she added mischievously. "I voted Green Party."

It was not a question the young lawyer litigated lightly.

"I'm going through an existential crisis right now because I'm thinking what if my vote means that Hillary doesn't get elected," she said. "However, my heart was like, I have to vote: 'No more dynasty politicians.'"

Asked why she requested anonymity, she spoke of a backlash against third-party voters in her community, both online, in her family, and in her face-to-face interactions.

"It was such an emotional journey to get here between all the vitriol that was exchanged between the parties," she said.

Discussions were less heated for the so-called down-ballot elections, where voters her chose not only congressional and senate candidates, but also a slate of seven county judges.

Parveen, the Clinton voter, rebuked the press for failing to educate the public about these options.

"That part didn't make me feel so good," she said. "I mean, just because I'm a registered Democrat doesn't mean that I am going to vote all down the line, but I know idea who those people were."

The stream of voters poured in steadily throughout the day, and the polls will close at around 9 p.m.

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