Streams

Fewer Election Day Problems, But New Ballot Still Confuses Voters

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Voting at polling places in New York City seems to be going more smoothly than on Primary Day, when some sites didn't open on time, scanners didn't work and voters complained about lack of privacy. Many said they had no trouble choosing the right candidates on the ballot, despite potentially confusing instructions. But some complained about the ballot's small type.

"I can't read it," said voter Linda Osofsky of Jackson Heights. "It's in a hundred languages. And if I can't find it, and I've been voting 50 years, I don't know about the rest of these people."

Another frequent problem mentioned Tuesday was that two ballot questions were inadvertently ignored by some voters. The questions are on the back of the ballot form. Miguel Velasquez, who voted in Chinatown, said he only voted on the initiatives because he heard a poll worker talking about them. "I overheard them reminding someone in front of me.  That's how I knew about it."

But accountant Frank Barone missed his chance. "I wasn't told they were on the back," he said. "They said there were some proposals, I looked, I didn't see anything there, so that was it." One of the questions concerns restoring the two-term limit for New York City elected officials; the other aims to bring more transparency to city government.  

By early afternoon, there were a few reports of scanner problems. At a polling site in the Westchester community of Mount Kisco, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo voted Tuesday, one of the three ballot scanners wasn't working. When told of the problem, Cuomo said there will be "hiccups" with a new system.

Some poll workers complained about a lack of staff. At one polling site on the East Side, a coordinator said only half her workers showed up, forcing voters to wait longer than usual. Some workers suggested this was because they still haven't been paid for working the September primary. The Board of Elections said checks were mailed yesterday.

The coordinator at another polling site in Chinatown, Manam Ma, said he couldn't fill three positions because the new process drove away some of his best workers.  "They are people who worked 10-20 years at our poll site, but they are afraid of the machine, they don't take the training of the scanner, and we lose those valuable workers for our site."

Different issues have motivated New Yorkers to vote today. Manhattanite Catherine Berclaz is an independent who said her vote was shaped by the environment in New York politics. "I'm just tired of this nastiness and racism and homophobia and all that. So I don't even get past that issue which I used to, now I'm like 'you know what, this isn't acceptable," she said.

Barbara Marco of Manhattan said she voted along party lines because the economy weighed most heavily on her mind. "For me to vote mostly Democratic so we don't have a tsunami of GOP candidates coming in. I really believe in supporting them to keep them working because we have to get out of this mess and it's not their fault."

But for Stella Payne, voting in New York today was a postitive experience. "I feel awesome. Voting is the greatest exercise of our rights in our country and not only is a right, it's our duty. So get out there and vote."

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has been encouraging people with voting problems to call the 311 help line. His office released a list of complaints recorded as of 2:30 this afternoon:


- Voting Ballot or Machine Complaint: 365

- Poll Site Complaint: 337

- Poll Worker Complaint: 80

There were also 2,386 calls by people looking to find a poll site and 939 calls requesting election information and voter registration information.

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Comments [6]

FELICIA INNISS from 11101

Please note that the ballot form was confusing and the fonts was too small. The person who created the ballot form should be fired. We should not have use a magnifying glass just to read the ballot form. This is a waste of tax payers money.

Nov. 03 2010 02:44 PM
Vicki Richman from Sugar Hill, Harlem

t's 24 hours since we voted, in the 84th Election District of New York, and we're still reeling from the belated accuracy of George Orwell's foresight.

We used the new paper ballot, replacing the time-honored mechanical lever machine, which was installed for Vicki's first vote, in 1961. Waiting to be assigned our ballot sheet, we overheard the election worker instruct the confused lady in front of us.

You can vote for any candidate, the worker intoned, waving her hand over the left side of the page, which included Democratic and Republican columns, but once you mark your choice, she went on with her well-rehearsed lecture, you must stay in that column. That is, your choices must be from either the Democratic or Republican party, but not both and not the minor parties on the right side of the page.

Of course, as the officially sanctioned, designated nosy eavesdroppers that we are, we immediately tried to prevent the worker from illegally influencing the lady's vote. We vote for people, we tried to explain, not for parties. You can vote for no more than one person for any given office, but your choices for the many different offices may be members of any party whatever, from the left side to the right, or from no party at all, if you to choose to write in a candidate.

Horrified at our doomsday radical swill corroding the foundation of our republic, the election worker immediately shut us up and commanded us, under pain of disenfranchisement, not to interfere with lawful, licensed election professionals, trained to guide a mentally impaired, disabled populace into the unfathomable depths of democracy.

Okay, shutting up, we took our ballots, went to the "private" booths, and marked our choices. Most were for the minor-party candidates on the right side. I voted for the few Working Families candidates for the local legislatures, and for the hooker, the radical activist, and the anarchist, listed in the parties they created for themselves, running for statewide offices. The official instructions meted out by the licensed, trained, delegated employee assisting voters would have forbidden my ballot, but I ignored them. Then I brought my maverick ballot to the scanner that would (secretly) read and count our votes.

Not so fast. A worker at the scanner snatched my ballot out of its privacy folder, looked it over, and started to slide it in the machine. I snatched it back, and told her it's my vote, not hers, so let me vote. No, she said, her job was to be sure my vote was correct and correctly inserted into the machine. That is, as I understood her, a government worker must carefully scrutinize my ballot to assure that my Constitutionally protected vote is free, secret, and private.

What a blessing to live in the most democratic and technologically advanced nation in the world!

Nov. 03 2010 02:23 PM
Elizabeth from Manhattan

I too miss the big lever machines, but I AM sentimental about it. Pulling the curtain: reminder that my vote is no one's business but mine. Flip the levers, pull the giant handle... feels like you're doing something substantial/important. Now, a piece of paper that you scan? Feh.
Also, I discovered yesterday that those little "privacy booths" give me vertigo!

Nov. 03 2010 11:18 AM
David from Distict 57, Queens

Distict 57, Queens - The English speaker of our two helpers explained the front side of the ballot very well, but neglected to mention that there was anything of importance on the back side of the ballot. At a glance, it appeared to be mostly blank with a disclaimer of some kind, since the print was so small. The other helper answered our questions with his own questions in Spanish at the scanner. The English speaking helper was busy signing others in, so we tried sliding the ballots in face up, like in a fax machine and it worked. Once we got home, we realized that there was something important on the back because the news told us about it. Maybe our Spanish speaking friend was asking us if we had filled out the back side of the ballot. We'll never know. The NY Board of Elections should let us know which and how many languages we will need to know in order to vote from now on, since the language I grew up with, here, obviously isn't enough. I will definitely read the fine print from now on, especially if it's on the back of a mostly blank page in fine print and nobody has told me about it. Incidentally, both poll workers were very nice. But nice won't give me a second chance at voting. It also does little to honor the sacrifice of those who died in order to preserve my right to vote, apparently in a mostly correct fashion while being assisted in a foreign language.

Nov. 03 2010 04:05 AM
David from Distict 57, Queens

Distict 57, Queens - The English speaker of our two helpers explained the front side of the ballot very well, but neglected to mention that there was anything of importance on the back side of the ballot. At a glance, it appeared to be mostly blank with a disclaimer of some kind, since the print was so small. The other helper answered our questions with his own questions in Spanish at the scanner. The English speaking helper was busy signing others in, so we tried sliding the ballots in face up, like in a fax machine and it worked. Once we got home, we realized that there was something important on the back because the news told us about it. Maybe our Spanish speaking friend was asking us if we had filled out the back side of the ballot. We'll never know. The NY Board of Elections should let us know which and how many languages we will need to know in order to vote from now on, since the language I grew up with, here, obviously isn't enough. I will definitely read the fine print from now on, especially if it's on the back of a mostly blank page in fine print and nobody has told me about it. Incidentally, both poll workers were very nice. But nice won't give me a second chance at voting. It also does little to honor the sacrifice of those who died in order to preserve my right to vote, apparently in a mostly correct fashion while being assisted in a foreign language.

Nov. 03 2010 04:03 AM
Ben from Park Slope

I didn't have any problems voting today. Nor have I ever had any problems voting in New York City. I understand that there are, perhaps, people who get confused by all of this. But it just isn't that hard.

I should also note that I miss the big lever machines. Not out of any misty romanticism for knobs and levers, but just cause they worked just fine and I was hoping my beloved city would use them for at least another decade or two while everyone *else* reported all of their problems with electronic systems. Seems a huge expenditure with an uncertain end.

Nov. 02 2010 04:48 PM

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