BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Election Day is now less than two weeks away, but starting Saturday, ballot boxes opened for early voting across Erie County.

“The fastest check in today has been 32 seconds and you don’t see the lines that we experienced years ago,” Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said. “Our hope is that we’re going to have at least 20,000 voting before Election Day which also makes it easier and quicker on Election Day itself because there will be less people that have to then come out to vote.”

University at Buffalo political science professor Shawn Donahue said New York was one of the latest states in the country to institute early voting.

“Early voting is something that’s fairly new here in New York. We’ve only had it just a few years,” Donahue said.

“You must realize that we also made mail in absentee voting easier since the pandemic in the state of New York. It also has the effect of, since you have more people that are going to be voting before Election Day, it takes some of the pressure off the polling locations on Election Day is the way that it’s set up in Erie County,” Donahue continued.

The Erie County Election Commissioners announced that over 4,000 ballots were cast on the first day of early voting.

A big key to that turnout for voters is being able to participate outside your precinct, creating a more expedited process to avoid those long lines.

“The way that it is set up in Erie County is that any of the multiple locations around the county, you can go and vote until the early voting closes,” Donahue said. “It is one of those convenience measures that government has put in place to try to give voters more choices as far as the manner that they vote.”

Donahue says historically, Republican voters tend to cast their ballots in person on election day, while Democrats use mail in, or early voting. However, this year that trend seems to be changing in Erie County.

“What you’re seeing is that there are a lot more, regardless of the party affiliation, voters coming out to exercise their right to vote early,” Mohr said. “A good mix of political affiliations, whether you’re Democrat, Republican, conservative or blank, you’re coming out to cast your ballot. We certainly do encourage you to do so.”

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.