ALBANY, N.Y. — Battered by a unrelenting pandemic and a crippled economy, New Yorkers headed to the polls on Tuesday in new ways and old, casting their ballots in masks, through the mail and inside some of New York City’s most famous landmarks in an election like no other in the state’s history.
No state has suffered more in the coronavirus outbreak than New York: More than 33,000 people have died here since March. The pandemic tore through New York City and its suburbs in the early days of spring, prompting a series of changes to election procedures, including a huge expansion of absentee ballot options that delayed results in a June primary by weeks and looked likely to slow the tally for the general election as well.
Indeed, few concrete results were expected to be immediately available, as election officials pleaded for patience amid a torrent of votes: More than 1.2 million voters sent in mail-in ballots statewide, according to election officials.
Each county has its own schedule for counting the absentee ballots, but most — including those in New York City — will not begin the process until Monday.
Still, some overwhelmingly Democratic districts were expected to yield results not long after polls closed at 9 p.m. In the city, powerful Democrats like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerrold Nadler were expected to easily win new terms, as part of a liberal cohort that also includes Representative Carolyn Maloney, whose June primary race wasn’t called until August.
Ms. Maloney survived her primary, but Representative Eliot L. Engel, a 16-term incumbent, was not as fortunate: His victorious challenger, Jamaal Bowman, was expected to be elected on Tuesday in a safe Democratic district including parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.
At the same time, the state’s congressional delegation was also expected to welcome a number of younger progressives to its ranks, including two — Ritchie Torres, a city councilman representing the Bronx, and Mondaire Jones, a Hudson Valley lawyer — who would become the first two openly gay Black members of Congress. Mr. Torres would also be the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of Congress.
The 2020 election was occurring against a backdrop of debate and demonstrations about systemic racism in policing and society as a whole, themes echoed in campaigns all over the state to fill 27 congressional seats and 213 in the State Legislature.
In Albany, eyes were on the State Senate, where Democrats were tantalizingly close to attaining a veto-proof supermajority that would cement the state’s reputation as one of the nation’s most liberal and perhaps dilute the power of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, to thwart legislation he dislikes.
The deep political divisions in the nation rippled through the election campaign season in New York, a solidly Democratic state that nonetheless has large regions populated by more conservative voters, especially in rural areas north and west of New York City.
On Sunday, those tensions devolved into fistfights in Manhattan, and a temporary blockade on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge across the Hudson River, as supporters of President Trump stopped traffic, waved banners and posed for video. Some businesses in the city and elsewhere boarded up windows of businesses in the days leading up to the election in anticipation of possible protests as results begin to roll in.
New York seemed assured of giving its 29 electoral votes to the Democratic candidate, the former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., despite President Trump’s long association with the state, both as a Queens native and a headline-grabbing builder in New York City.
Whatever relationship the president had with the city eroded during his first term, as he pursued a hard-right agenda and frequently fought with Mr. Cuomo. In 2019, he formally moved his place of residence to Florida, a swing state.
The governor’s reaction — “Good riddance,” he said, on several occasions — summed up the feeling of many downstate residents toward the president, whose support in polls had dipped into the 20s on occasion.
The president has retained some pockets of popularity, including in the North Country — the swath of Adirondacks between Lake Ontario and Vermont — where Representative Elise Stefanik, a steadfast supporter of Mr. Trump, was favored to capture a fourth term.
In the 27th Congressional District, a largely rural region outside Buffalo, Representative Chris Jacobs was favored in a rematch against Democrat Nate McMurray. Rep. Jacobs is seeking to win a full two-year term after being elected in June to fill out the term of Republican Chris Collins, who resigned last year shortly before pleading guilty to federal insider trading charges.
In Staten Island, Representative Max Rose, a first-term Democrat, was in a fierce fight with Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. Mayor Bill de Blasio — a two-term Democrat who is unpopular in that right-leaning borough — had become a central campaign issue in the race.
Here’s a guide to The Times’s election night coverage, no matter when, how or how often you want to consume it.
- If you just want results… There will be a results map on The Times’s home page, and yes, the infamous needle will be back — but only for Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, the only states providing granular enough information for our experts to make educated projections of uncounted votes.
- If you want constant updates… Times reporters are live-blogging all day and night. This will be your one-stop shop for minute-by-minute updates: race calls, on-the-ground reporting from swing states, news about any voting issues or disruptions, and more.
- If you want to check in every so often… Times journalists are also producing a live briefing from roughly 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET, with an overview of what’s happening in the presidential race, the Senate and House races, and the voting process itself.
In a twist, Ms. Malliotakis’s campaign suggested in recent days that Mr. de Blasio had endorsed Mr. Rose, something the Democratic incumbent vehemently denied. (The mayor has said that he has not issued a formal endorsement, but that he normally supports Democrats.)
Republicans were playing defense in some more moderate areas, including on Long Island, where Representative Lee Zeldin was seeking a fourth term, with the backing of the president and his surrogates, and where an open seat — for the vacancy created by the retirement of Peter T. King, a 14-term Republican — was being contested.
Democrats, with an enormous cash advantage in State Senate races, were hoping to win a supermajority, even given opposition from a political action committee, Safe Together New York, which was backed by $4.5 million donated by Ronald S. Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir and a prominent supporter of conservative causes.
Despite election anxiety, the long lines that characterized early voting in New York City had largely evaporated come Tuesday, perhaps because of the influx of early voters — more than 1.1 million New Yorkers had voted early in the city — as well as preparations by election officials.
Police officials used trucks and barricades to create a “frozen zone” around Trump Tower, the president’s namesake tower on Fifth Avenue. Officers were at polling stations with thousands of others on standby, as police officials sought to assure the public that voting would be protected, and violence would not be tolerated.
“My message to anyone who wants to cause violence and destruction is don’t even try it,” said Chief Terence A. Monahan, the force’s top uniformed official. “We know who you are, and you will be arrested.”
Where five million registered voters had to contend with fewer than 90 polling sites for the week of early voting, the New York City Board of Elections had set up more than 1,200 on Tuesday. And despite scattered mechanical issues and the occasional tardy-to-open polling site, lines moved quickly.
At the High School of Art and Design in Midtown East, Bernard Aanonsen, 28, said this Election Day felt exceptional, saying that it was a moment that needed “leaders to take action and be bold.”
“When we look back,” he said, “this will be considered one of the most important elections of our times.”
Dana Rubinstein, Ashley Southall, Elisha Brown and Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting from New York.