CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Despite frigid temperatures and falling snow, a steady stream of voters continued to line up and wait outside the Cheektowaga Senior Center for a chance to cast an early vote.
It is a scene that has been repeated often in many other parts of Erie County throughout the week.
This year's presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has ignited a passion for voting among the public - while the reasons for doing so differ depending on which party is being supported.
So many voters have now cast early votes in Erie County that it is setting new records.
"Our turnout is one of the highest in the state, and percentage-wise, I think we might be the highest in the state," said Democrat Erie County Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner.
Zellner said tens-of-thousands of voters who had not previously voted in past elections are now turning out for this one.
"We've had four straight days of 20,000+ voters taking advantage of early voting," commented the elections commissioner.
Erie County has more registered Democrats than Republicans, and those Democrats are turning out to vote at a 2-to-1 ratio, added Zellner.
While Republicans are also using early voting, it is expected that many Erie County Republicans will cast their votes on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd.
"Just because we have so many other avenues, doesn't mean Election Day disappears. There are a lot of people who have been voting for a long time at their local church or fire hall, and they want to continue to do that," explained Erie County Republican Committee Executive Director Jesse Prieto.
Prieto admitted that President Trump's comments expressing concern with early and absentee voting has some Republican voters waiting until election day before voting.
"I think we are going to see an extremely large Republican turnout on Tuesday, November 3rd and that makes me feel very confident with these races," added Prieto.
Erie County is operating 37 early voting sites with the busiest being in the big towns of Cheektowaga, Amherst, Tonawanda, and Hamburg.
While the presidential race has voters taking sides, it was a 'bi-partisan effort' that allowed Erie County to operate many more early voting stations than was required by NYS Election Law. That law mandated one early voting site for every 50,000 voters - which in Erie County would be about 8 to 10 sites.
In 2019, the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner, Jeremy Zellner, and the Republican Board of Elections Commissioner, Ralph Mohr, secured $1 million in New York State grant funding to operate the extra early voting sites.
"Our projections are showing that we could have 50% of the vote in before election day," explained Zellner, during a press conference at Erie County Democratic Headquarters in Buffalo.
Early voting in New York State continues until Sunday, November 1st.