Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
City election workers deployed a new protocol for closing polls and reporting unofficial election results Thursday night following the primaries for state legislative and local offices.
It took workers at one polling site in Washington Heights two hours to fully close the polls under the new rules. The site, the Holyrood Church on West 179th Street, falls in the district that came under scrutiny during the June Congressional primary.
There, several election districts reported zero returns on election night in the race between incumbent Congressman Charles Rangel and State Senator Adrianno Espaillat, only to have results emerge in some of those districts over the days that followed.
Just before 11 p.m., coordinator Yvette Johnson was still helping poll workers complete their closing checklist, which includes tallying up all the used, unused, voided and affidavit ballots for each election district. At this site, there were eight election districts.
Perhaps the greatest change in protocol was the use of memory sticks to report results on election night. Before the protocol change this summer, officers took the handwritten totals back to the precincts and manually typed the results into a database for the media.
Now an NYPD officer stationed at the site was just waiting to take the memory sticks from each voting machine back to the precinct to plug it into a Board of Elections laptop to upload unofficial results to the media.
But that step couldn’t happen until the poll site was completely closed, and that was taking so long, according to Johnson, because her poll workers aren’t trained well enough.
“It means that you are here longer, when people are not trained properly,” said Johnson, who had to make sure poll workers were filling out the all the right forms correctly, and placing used and unused supplies in the appropriate place. "If people get trained properly, then you don’t have as much problems at the end of the evening."
A spokeswoman for the BOE says all poll workers are required to complete a six-hour training course and pass an exam.
The BOE has also said using the memory sticks for election night returns was only intended to improve the accuracy of the results – not the speed.