Every Vote Counts?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Find out whether we can expect all of our votes to be counted accurately today….from early voting problems, to malfunctioning voting machines. Michael Waldman is director of NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Weigh in: Have you encountered voting problems today? Where do you live?


Michael Waldman

Comments [26]

Voter from Brooklyn

I voted at 6:45AM at IS 88 in southern Park Slope/Northern Sunset Park. There’s never more than a half dozen or so people there when I vote in the morning… today, lines to the door. I told them what ED I was in, but then sent me to another. Then, when I ignored the poll worker and went to my correct ED, they told me and my neighbor the machine was busted and we had to fill out provisional ballots. They didn’t have us sign the voter roll as I thought was required and on my way out I overheard a guy on his mobile saying the touch-screen machine(didn't know we had them yet, but...)didn’t register his vote, so they told him to use the lever machine. All this and only 45 minutes in.

Nov. 04 2008 03:19 PM
AD from Hell's Kitchen

Voted at PS 51 in Midtown West in 2004 and 2008. Same issues four years later: broken machines, names missing from lists, lack of basic communication between poll workers and voters, and long two-hour waits for people in Election Districts 1 and 76. (I guess due to a couple machines per ED for all the new high-rises?) Other machines for other districts (82, 89, 91) had considerably shorter lines.

As for my machine, I was physically unable to move a lever for an Independent state assembly candidate. I tried some other state/local levers to see. The Republican one was also stuck; the Democratic local gov't. ones were all smooth as silk. I notified two poll workers. One didn't seem to understand English and the other asked "Was it a Republican?" I said "Independent." He then said "I have to go work over here [at this other machine] now" and walked away.

Nov. 04 2008 02:27 PM
Cristina from Park Slope, Brklyn

Just voted at PS 282. The line was long but pollworkers were walking down the line and inviting the elderly and those with babies to move up to the front. I just registered last month and brought my reg. card with me and got to skip the line as well. One of the two lever machines for my ED was broken but I had no problem casting my vote in the working one. I even helped myself to a chocolate cupcake from the school bakesale on my way out to celebrate.

Nov. 04 2008 01:34 PM
DYM from Williamsburg Brooklyn

I also had a problem with my voter status. Having not moved in 7 years I assumed my voter registration was still still valid. At 6:30 this morning, my fiancee's old registration made the rolls, but mine was gone. At home I found that my status had been "inactivated." I was able to submit a provisional ballot, but I am both saddened and frustrated that I didn't get my chance to break one of the machines.

Nov. 04 2008 01:09 PM
oilmonkey from ny

Leonard's guest is wrong in implying that Oregon's voting system is mail-only and subject to the whims of the post office. Ballots can and often are mailed in, but they can also be dropped off at specified places for (I believe) the two weeks leading up to election day. I've read that their's is the most cost effective and participated-in system in the country.

Nov. 04 2008 01:04 PM
Eric from B'klyn

In France, every citizen is registered to vote by virtue of the fact that they are a citizen. Why not a similar system here?

Nov. 04 2008 12:59 PM
LBS from Brooklyn, NY

I voted in Fort Greene early this morning. The machine for my election district was broken by 6:45 am. I eventually voted using a paper ballot, but this isn't the first Election Day when I've encountered a broken machine in my ED. Isn't there some way to avoid this in the future?

Nov. 04 2008 12:56 PM
Brian from Brooklyn

NY (and others) can handle the logisitics of several lotto/lotteries per week- anonymous and trusted. Can this technology be applied to elections?

Nov. 04 2008 12:56 PM
Michael Lapinski from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Wondering is the polling site would have already known the number of voters registered in each district and planned accordingly?

This was the first time I encountered this and even these conscientious work-at-home Park Slopers were pushed to the limit.

Nov. 04 2008 12:55 PM
Fiona Brady from Bronx, NY

I wanted to share a concern about today's voting...I received messages from friends urging me to cast my vote for Obama/Biden under the Working Families (WF) party, which I was glad to do. But when I got to my voting booth, there was no lever to the right of the WF presidential candidate. If one was a new voter, or didn't pay careful attention and note that all levers are to the RIGHT of the candidate names, one could very easily have cast their vote erroneously under the conservative line for McCain.
I called both the WF office and the NY Board of Elections, who took note. But I sure hope that this was a localized glitch!

Nov. 04 2008 12:55 PM
Sally from Ridgewood

There are only 300 million people in this country why can't we just use paper?

Nov. 04 2008 12:54 PM

According to this guest, every incident of voting shenanigans is by Republicans designed to screw over Dems. What happened to the traditions of Tammany Hall and the Daley Machine? This guy's credibility, or at least his neutrality is very questionable.

Nov. 04 2008 12:52 PM
Bette from Park Slope, Brooklyn (New York)

I moved 4 blocks away from my old house this fall and did register to vote at the new address. I received a new voter registration card, but was not in "the book". I was given a provisional ballot, which I filled out. There was no official slot for this ballot, and I simply had to hand it to an election worker. Later, I found out they were supposed to inform me that I could request an emergency ballot. I was never informed of this. I will be going down to the Brooklyn Board of Elections later today to demand this emergency ballot. I am extremely upset, because these paper ballots were being handled very haphazardly. I really don't feel that there is any way to check if these paper ballots will end up counted - ever!!!

Nov. 04 2008 12:50 PM
Lisa from CT

Come on... How many millions of ATM transactions are processed securely every day of the week in this country. Why can't voting be as simple?

Nov. 04 2008 12:46 PM
Dan Finton from hells kitchen

At 1030, there were no problems at my voting place, Local 802. My ED had a normal wait of 2 people ahead of me. Other ED's which contain recently built hi rises had longer lines. All machines were working fine.

Nov. 04 2008 12:44 PM
Michael Lapinski from Park Slope, Brooklyn

2 hours to vote for me in Park Slope Brooklyn starting at 9AM.

The line outside was an hour long and all the way around the block.

Inside was another hour with only two districts (17 and 44) with abnormally long lines.

The line for 44 was so long that it was at least another additional hour just to get the voter card!?!

District 18 had two booths but no lines.

Nov. 04 2008 12:43 PM
Rebecca from Grinnell, IA

Not so about early voting! I live in Connecticut but go to (a pretty liberal) college in Iowa, where most of us participated in early voting. However, just yesterday, a team of Republican lawyers gave word that they're trying to contest 700 of our votes based on a registration technicality - that we should have registered at our dorms and not our campus mailboxes, even though we can't receive mail at our dorm addresses. It turns out that 50 of these votes have successfully been contested, so now there are 50 kids who have already voted who we need to find and make sure re-vote, who voted early because it's hard to get to the polls when you have to find a ride and may have to miss classes - which we'll do, of course, but this whole thing is ridiculous. And I'm sure we're not alone.

Nov. 04 2008 12:42 PM
Dorothy from Chelsea

I'm in ED 27 - there was one person ahead of me in line. Other EDs at the same location had 50-100 people in line. Completely effortless. Then I went to Starbucks and got my free coffee.

Nov. 04 2008 12:42 PM
Lisa from CT

It took me all of 20 seconds to vote, once I was in the booth.

Obama: 9 seconds to record his votes
Biden: 3 seconds to record his votes (probably picked full D. ticket)
Palin: 93 seconds to record her votes (did she have trouble reading, or trouble deciding?)
McCain: reporters not let into the building.

I asked my polling supervisors if they were aware of scanning issues, and got assurances they were accurate. I doubt I'd have been told otherwise, though.

Nov. 04 2008 12:32 PM
Reet from Brooklyn

I voted in Bed Stuy at 6:15 this morning at PS.54. It kind of felt like I was voting in the 1950's. The volunteers were very helpful, except that they sent me to the wrong table twice. It was the old pull lever type of machine. The line wasn't that bad and it took me about 15 minutes to finish up. However for those people living in district #84 - the line to that table/booth was massive. It's an amazing experience and it was my first time voting after being in this country for 38 year. It felt pretty incredible that my first two votes ever were for a woman and a black man!

Nov. 04 2008 12:18 PM
stu in nyc from uws

we moved 5 blocks last year, and our voting place changed from a school gym (never a wait) to a small cramped church hall (line out the door and down the block). the roll book happened to be open to the page with my wife's name (it was the last name on the page). when the poll worked turned the page for my name, I noticed that my wife's name was also at the top of the new page. I'm sure my wife is not going to wait on line later today to vote twice, but how many mistakes like this could be turned into an advantage for a candidate (or turn into a re-count situation)?

some suggestions:

a) since some states already allow early voting, change the law nationally to allow voting over a 3 day weekend to avoid long lines (change election day to election weekend).

b) as an incentive to vote, everyone who voted is entered into a national (or state-wide) lottery to win a big monetary prize. (then maybe my wife would wait on-line to vote twice - hahaha)

Nov. 04 2008 11:47 AM
Kristine from Brooklyn

I had the same issue as Sarah. I showed up with all my voter registration documentation -- registration card, transfer notice and even a postcard telling my polling location had changed (mailed a couple months ago) -- and yet my name wasn't on the "list." I got an affidavit ballot and an instruction sheet that seems to say the election boards will process the vote if they can prove I'm registered and I manage to fill it out correctly. Well, clearly they can't even perform the most basic clerical work correctly so how can I be sure they'll ever process my paper ballot or bother to prove my registration. I even had my license with my current address. I stood in line for an hour and a half only to walk away unsure I had any say in anything. Then at work, I encountered three other people this happened to. How is this possible? I can't imagine why I'd be dropped from the list yet still on their mailing lists, etc.

Meanwhile, my friend almost broke the lever on his machine -- pulled it too vigorously. The aide at the machine, a male, told him, "Don't do it too hard! You got to treat it gently, like you touch a woman!" Ha.

Nov. 04 2008 10:48 AM
sharon from NYC

I'm a NYC downtown voter. I voted about 6:30 this morning with no problem and virtually no line. My husband voted 40 minutes later and the anitquated pull-level voting machine broke down. He turned in a handwritten ballot. The first order of business after the election is to fix this broken system. What does it say about U.S. democracy when too many people will be disenfranchised once again. It's embarrassing.

Nov. 04 2008 10:43 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

I live in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn and have offical confirmation that I am registered (I brought it with me too), yet my name didn't appear on the "list". They tried to turn me away until I made a bit of a stink and was given an affidavit ballad. I hear those don't really count unless the election is close? How common is it for these errors to occur? People are pretty high strung about this election and I know New York isn't a swing state, but I felt pretty cheated at the poll today.

Nov. 04 2008 09:58 AM
David from Brooklyn, NY

My girlfriend and I voted early this morning in Brooklyn. I used to think that the old mechanical voting machines in our district were quaint, but when the mechanism failed for me this morning and I could not physically flip the switch for my candidate, I realized our system is broken.

If I can securely withdraw money from my bank account at an ATM, or pay my phone bill online, why do we have to use such ancient and failure-prone technology to vote? (And yes, I understand the need for a paper record along with the computerized technology, but that can be easily achieved.)

Nov. 04 2008 09:56 AM

In Oregon, everyone votes by mail, with paper ballots. They have fairly high turnout and few problems. There are no lines, no malfunctioning machines, and there is no way to discourage voter turnout in certain areas by limiting polling places or the number of machines. Voters are even sent a handy information guide explaining ballot measures. An excellent system. (

Florida...Ohio...are you listening?)

Nov. 04 2008 09:28 AM

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