Fewer Election Day Problems, But New Ballot Still Confuses Voters

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.