By Fernando Alba
With the 2020 elections just days away, members of the Plattsburgh community set their yard signs, demonstrated, counter demonstrated and cast their ballot in early voting in anticipation of the nation-defining race.
Early voting started in Clinton County Oct. 24 and the turnout far exceeded 2016’s totals. More than 4,000 ballots have been cast as of Tuesday during the early voting period, according to Clinton County officials. Only 748 ballots were cast in the same period in the last presidential election.
In the run up to the elections, demonstrations by Donald Trump supporters have been set up in the old Friendly’s parking lot along Route 3 every week. One was held the same day early voting started.
Peru resident Donna Arnold has been to three demonstrations on Route 3. Each time she’s gone, she has felt more confident about Trump’s chances of winning a second term because of the people who are also coming out to show their support.
“People who are usually pretty silent on things like this, who don’t say too much, are now speaking up,” she said. “That’s what we need to do. We need to let this country know that we support our president.”
Counter demonstrations have been set up across the street in previous weeks. At times, both groups have been contentious with police getting involved.
Courtney Stone, a SUNY Plattsburgh senior business administration major, helped set up Oct. 24’s counter demonstration, which was the fifth one she attended.
“We’re countering the hate in this town. We have to show the North Country that despite the overwhelming presence of their Trump signs, there’s good people out here,” she said.
To Stone and others opposite of the Trump demonstrators, the rallies are hateful and with no clear motivation other than to incite anger.
“I don’t think they’re standing for anything,” Stone said. “They just want to come to spew their hate.”
Olivia Hansen, a senior biomedical science major and chemistry minor, noted how Trump supporters were making fun of her side wearing masks and calling them terrorists.
“I think it’s really sad to see the miseducation in Plattsburgh,” she said. “I’m worried about the case count in Plattsburgh.”
Stone, along with other counter demonstrators, make sure to stay until the Trump supporters end their rallies, which is usually three to four hours, Stone said. On one occasion when police became involved, Stone stayed for seven hours.
“We don’t leave before they do,” Stone said.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is running for reelection in New York’s 21st district against Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb, along with other local candidates joined the Trump supporters for another rally Tuesday on Route 3 with one week to go before the Nov. 3 elections. Stefanik made her case for another term in Congress and for a second term for Trump.
“This election is a choice. This is a choice between standing up for our Constitution,” Stefanik said. “We need to send a message that we support our law enforcement and that we back the blue in the North Country.”
Shari Buutchino, a Dannemora resident who has gone to three Trump rallies along Route 3, came out to Stefanik’s rally to show her support for the president and the congresswoman.
“[Trump] is supporting us. He’s giving average people money. Our economy was so great before this virus hit us,” she said.
On election night, SUNY Plattsburgh will be hosting two watch parties. One will be hosted by the The H.U.B. in the Angell College Center. Space will be limited. Campus Housing and Community Living will be hosting a virtual watch party.