Your New Ballot Stories: Frustration and Confusion at the Polls

We've been asking you to send in your primary day reports, particularly your experience with the new ballot design. You tell us your stories when you text BALLOT to 30644 and we call you back.

Your reactions so far have been mixed: Some people found the new paper ballots simpler - Jim Petzke said it was as "easy as eating a piece of pie."  We had lots of reports of nearly empty polling stations and people who were "in and out in five minutes."

But many of you reported problems. Organisational issues at the polling stations included missing ballots, broken optical scanners and long lines. Wayne Alan Blood wrote to our Facebook page to say that he had been "unceremoniously turned away" because the ballots never arrived.

There were lots of complaints about the paper ballots themselves. Voters called the print "tiny", and the design confusing and difficult to understand.

But the most outrage was voiced over what many of our listeners felt was a lack of ballot secrecy: Meryl Salvinger said poll workers told her to scan her ballot face up "which seems kind of crazy, with a poll worker standing standing right there, looking at it. I didn't really care, but that could be a problem for some people." Another caller, Greg Hofer, was livid:

"My voting booth was two pieces of manila file folders taped together at the end of the poll workers table. Anyone could have walked behind me and seen how I voted. In the forty years that I have voted, and I have never missed an election, this is the first time I felt exposed ... and I was absolutely appalled."

And it's not just the IAFC crowd that is finding trouble, Mayor Bloomberg has called the voting troubles a "royal screw-up."

Below is a running list of the reports we've received, updated throughout the day...

WNYC has produced a montage of all the problems people had with the new ballot today:

And below are more independent reports--keep 'em coming!


Anna Jackson reported that the electronic voice system for visually impaired voters failed to work for her friend, who is blind.

"He wanted to use the electronic voice reader however the polling site did not have the key to use the reader--and we got to the site at around 8 o'clock in the evening so they never received the key. They kept trying to tell him that he could just fill in the card and he's blind so he wasn't able to do that, and then they suggested that someone else fill it in for him, which completely defeated the purpose of making it accessible to everyone."


Duane Jackson in Astoria said voting was a pretty easy...but not perfect process.

"It has potential but I think there are still some bugs that need to be worked out."


Alicia Davis in Croton-on-Hudson in New York said her voting experience was completely uneventful.

"It went in smoothly, it registered that the vote was recorded and I was certainly comforted that they've got a paper ballot back-up in case they need to recount the votes."


Hayden Grant wasn't able to try out the new machines at all, because even though he's a registered Democrat, his name wasn't in the roll book.

"I feel a sense of disenfranchisement. I would have loved to have experienced the new paper ballot which I used but don't have an experience with the machine."

Janet Margins was left a little uneasy by her encounter with the new machines.

"What I didn't care for was I couldn't verify who I voted for at the scanning machines. I kind of knew, but I just wanted to make sure it interpreted my voting correctly."


David Manning was astounded by the bad ballot design.

"Anyone who's ever used tables in Microsoft Word could make a better design table than that."


Kristin Keefe said without the levers in the booths, the magic was missing for her kids.

"There was no giant lever for them to flip at the end of voting, and I always sort of count on that to inspire them to want to vote and to make it tangible."


Manachem Solomon was wistful for the old machines.

"The paper ballot is more difficult to use than the absentee paper ballots--which I actually might go for next time."


Carolina in Westchester County said she didn't have any problems with the ballot...but she had a few with the personnel working at the station.

"Some of them were senior citizens and they actually needed more help in reading names and information to give to the voters and that took extra time."


Paula Washington in Pamona, New York was the first voter in her polling place this morning, but the scanners didn't work.

"I simply had to leave without knowing if I had been sucessful in casting my ballot."


An Unknown Caller who voted at Baruch College said she found it "the simplest thing I've ever done."

"I'm sure there were glitches elsewhere but there didn't seem to be any there, and the person operating the copier was very voluble and knowlegeable."


Michael Moore (we don't think this is the filmmaker) said his experience was fairly simple.

"I had an easy time today with the paper ballot, there are only two races in my district."


Brianna Fedelli said the scanner was OK but the font was too small and the design was difficult to navigate.

"I'm fairly young, I'm 28, I'm educated, I'm a lawyer, and it was very very confusing to me."


Reyanne Hoffman said time will tell if the new system is an improvement on the old.

"I think the whole thing took me three times longer, maybe four times longer than before."


David Casaves said the feng shui of his polling place made it difficult to vote secretly.

"The privacy booths were pointed the wrong way. People could look in and the magnifiers didn't work as well. Bring your own glasses."


Holly said the poll worker who was "helping" her scan her ballot in Chinatown scanned it with her eyes first.

"When I filled out my ballot and brought it into scan the woman took it from my hand and obviously read it and inserted it for me."


Lucy Garnet, who voted on Henry street in Manhattan, reported that the person who handed out the ballots made some fumbles, but otherwise things went smoothly. However, she was a little lonely while exercising her rights within the democratic process.

"Of course, I was the only person voting at the time, it was about 2:30 in the afternoon."


Wayne Alan Blood commented on our Facebook page:

I am absolutely LIVID! The New York Primary is a fraudulent joke, but I'm NOT laughing. I was unceremoniously turned away from the polls this morning because the ballots for my district never arrived. They have no idea *when* or *if* they will even show up. And regrettably, I will not have another opportunity to vote t his evening. I'm appalled that there is no contingency plan for such a massive screw-up.

Jim Petzke says "voting was as easy as eating a piece of pie."


Jessica Weigmann says she found the voting system easy and smooth, but that the paper ballots showed room for improvement.

"The only thing I would add to clarify the different races would be to - in the box where it says what the race is, maybe to shade that, to have a color scheme or even just grey and white so you have a sense of how many races there were."

Kristen Keith voted at the Columbia voting station. She said everything went smoothly, but even with good eyesight, it was hard to read.

"Otherwise everyone was pretty gracious and things went smoothly."

Larry Greenstein says he was Number 64 at his polling station around 3 pm this afternoon.

"It was really quiet, which I am not sure is a good thing. But I had no problems with the ballot - the machine took it right away."

Michael Resnick in Suffern, NY says he was confused by the ballot.

"I entered the bullet marking in the write-in rather than the printed. But I was able to write the person's name in and I didn't have an overvote, so the scanner accepted it."

Lou Tally agrees that privacy is a huge issue with the new scanner.

"The gentleman who took my voting green card opened my folder, took out my ballot and proceeded to read it. I asked him several times what he was doing, but he didn't speak English."


Greg Hofer says that he was appalled at the lack of secrecy and privacy in his vote.

"My voting booth was two pieces of manila file folders taped together at the end of the poll workers table. Anyone could have walked behind me and seen how I voted. In the forty years that I have voted, and I have never missed an election, this is the first time I felt exposed ... and I was absolutely appalled."


Laura in Inwood says that at her polling station, poll workers were very concerned about privacy.

"They were careful to give us folders to keep ballots in, we were directed to the standing areas, and very concerned with making sure it was hidden and facedown when the ballot went into the machine."


Lauren Lemont said she spent more time with the poll workers, trying to figure out which form to fill out - but called the voting process fairly easy.

"It took me about five minutes to vote and I am happy that there IS a paper ballot."


Mary called casting her vote with the new paper ballot "uneventful."

"But I kind of missed the lever to pull -- that sort of sense of really voting."


Dave Friedman says that casting his ballot - including using the voting scanner - at P.S.217 in Brooklyn was very easy.

"The only question I had about the ballot was where it said to "circle the oval above or next to the name of your candidate". That could lead to confusion. Do you circle the oval ABOVE your candidate's name, which is voting for another candidate, or the one to the SIDE, which would indeed be voting for the candidate of your choice. The biggest problem I had in voting today was drowning out the sounds of the kids at lunch."


Meryl Salvinger says had to do a paper ballot in Brooklyn Heights after her ballot jammed in the scanning machine.

"I put in the scanning machine, and I was told I had to put it in face up - which seems kind of crazy, with a poll worker standing standing right there, looking at it. I didn't really care, but that could be a problem for some people. And then it jammed in the machine and they had no idea what to do about it."


Jamie Schwarz in Brooklyn Heights said that the voting was easy there was hardly any line.

"The one complaint is that the text size is way too small. I'm only 32, it was fine for me, but any one with sight problems would have a huge problem. There were magnifying glasses there, but I have a feeling most people are going to miss it."


Stephanie was the first voter at her polling place in the Old Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, and reports that poll workers had trouble figuring out the process -- but that once she had a ballot, her voting went quickly:

"The voting personnel did not seem to kind of get it on how to give people the voting cards... I think that the training that the voting personnel get probably needs to be beefed up, because they're not used to scanners and they didn't know where to tell me to put the ballot or whether it was upside-down."


Voter Alan Fintz reports from Brooklyn that some of the personnel at the polling place were uncertain about the process, but that the ballot print was much easier to read than he expected:

"I realized after I cast the ballot that the voting machine that is used for most people where you simply put our paper in to be scanned doesn't display on the screen the readout of the results that you put on the ballot."


Luke in Park Slope said his experience "didn't instill a lot of trust that the vote was counted."

"I thought I was going to be voting with a computer, but instead I'm handed a piece of paper that I fill out like a form as a kid when I was taking standardized tests. And you walk to a private booth where the pen doesn't totally work and then you have to feed it through a scanner that doesn't give a clear confirmation of who you voted for. It just says your vote was counted."


Voter Peter called in after voting on the West Side, on 53rd Street. He says he found it amazingly easy and that it is a step forward for voting in New York.

"I don't understand the complaints people have. Maybe that's older people, people who always vote with mechanical machines. But this was very very easy and I had a good experience this morning."


Nicole in Inwood says she started getting frustrated, waiting for 30 minutes in line while the two voting machines were being fixed. Some people were starting to walk out.

"On the other side there was the green card. One of the helpers was asking 'Where's your green card, where's your green card?' There was a gentleman in back who was looking at her like she had five heads. Then she says, 'No, not THAT Green Card, your VOTING green card.' So there is a lot of confusion here."


Doug Joachim voted this morning in Midtown West by paper ballot. He said only 15 people had voted at his poll by the time he put in his ballot at 10 AM.

I am a little disenchanted that we still don't get receipts when we vote. There is a little message on the computer after you vote saying 'Thank you for voting!', but there's no receipt... Also, the other issue I had with voting today - information about the judicial nominees was nowhere to be found. I was forced to write in my nominee, which was my four-year-old son, 12 times.


Fred Bogin voted at the West Side High School. He complains that the type is way too small and he had to wait in line for the scanner because there was only one.

"I had trouble seeing it and I have decent eye-sight. Anyone with any worse eye-sight will have a lot of trouble. The type is way too small. ... It will be a real mess come the final election in November if they don't have more scanners and if they don't have larger type on the ballots."


We've been asking you to send in your primary day reports, particularly your experience with the new ballot design. It's not too late - if you want to submit your story, text BALLOT to 30644. We'll call you back with all the instructions you need. Below is a running list of the reports we've received, updated throughout the day...