Reports of Voting Problems Citywide

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The city's first primary day with the new paper ballot system has been bumpy, to say the least. Problems have been reported throughout the five boroughs, and Mayor Bloomberg himself called it a “royal screw-up.”  A lot of the problems had to do with the new voting machines that use optical scanning instead of levers to count votes. Some listeners told WNYC that their experience went smoothly, but far more said they had trouble reading the small print, there wasn't enough privacy, the ballot design was confusing, scanners were broken, and, the blooper we feel takes the cake: a few polling stations were even missing ballots.

A few anecdotes:

Voters in several districts in Pelham were turned away during the first half-hour of voting because of a glitch in the optical scan machines. The new system involves paper ballots fed into the machines to be read and tabulated.

A poll worker said the Westchester County Board of Elections had been called to send someone who could fix the machines.

The mayor said his office received "disturbing" reports about city-wide problems -- including broken and missing scanners -- and "poor customer service" from poll workers. Here's how he put it:

"We've been told of some polling sites that opened two to four hours late. That is a royal screw-up — and it’s completely unacceptable."

The mayor said over the past five years the city had provided the Board of Elections $77 million to make the transition to the new voting machines, as well as receiving $85 million in federal funds for purchasing the machines.

"But there is a total absence of accountability for how the Board performed on Election Day -- because the Board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York. New Yorkers deserve better than this -- and the time has come to fix it," Bloomberg says.

In Jackson Heights, Queens poll worker Mario Faro was trying to get the machines working Tuesday morning, but could only get two out of three to work properly.

Further east at PS 89 on the border of Elmhurst and Corona, there were reports of broken machines, plus a broken pipe that was flooding voting rooms. 

On the Lower East Side, one polling site opened around 10:30 a.m., nearly four hours late.

On the Upper West Side, voters reported that when they showed up in the morning, the ballots had not yet arrived. Some voters had to leave to go to work and said they could not return before polls closed at 9 p.m., and therefore lost their chance to cast a ballot Tuesday.

On the Upper East Side, voters complained that the print on the new paper ballot was too small and the layout on the new ballot was confusing. Voter Thea Benenson was one of several voters who had to recast her ballot because she only marked her ovals with check marks. The machine only reads ovals that are completely colored in.

“They didn’t tell me to fill anything in,” said Benenson. “It’s ridiculous. I have a Ph.D. And they said, ‘Oh, you didn’t do it right.’”

Many other voters at that polling place said they were offended by the lack of privacy with the new system. Poll workers stood next to the optical scanning machines and voters said the workers could read ballots fed into the devices. One voter was so offended by the lack of privacy, he walked out with his ballot, only to be chased down by police officers a few blocks away and forced to return his ballot. 

Meanwhile, poll worker Paul Hutchinson started the day jittery because he felt he hadn’t been adequately trained on the new system. Hutchinson has been volunteering as a poll worker for a few years already.

“I wasn’t confident,” said Hutchinson. “They just said carry the book with you and try to ask questions once you’re here.”

The City Board of Elections said in a written statement that they increased poll worker training by 50 percent this year and increased the number of poll workers by 20 percent.

Disabled voters reported problems, too -- though disability rights advocates say the mishaps they saw today were the same problems they see every year. Margi Trapani of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York says wheelchair users had trouble finding accessible entrances to polling sites. At least one polling place in Howard Beach, Queens had dangerous construction and scaffolding near the entrance. Disabled voters who needed to use the Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), which are equipped with Braille pads, audio recordings and “sip-and-puff” instruments for the mobility-impaired, found they couldn’t wheel their chairs up to the machine because there wasn’t enough room.

Still, not everyone had problems. Voters across the city have described the new process as quick and simple. Many said lines seemed shorter.

If any voters felt their votes were not properly counted, they should contact voting rights advocates with Election Protection, an election watchdog group associated with the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law.  The organization's hotline is 1-866-OUR-VOTE.  Callers will be able to talk to lawyers about possible legal recourse.


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Comments [4]

Michelle from Brooklyn

I went this am (very excited to cast my vote)and got in line at 9:20am at (MS51 350 5th ave District 85 Assembly District 52)in Park Slope. After 15 minutes I was told I was in the wrong district line and that i could go right in. I entered the school and got in a very long line that snaked around the gymnasium, from that point it took over 2 hours to vote! People including myself began to get upset and talk to the coordinator who was very defensive and offered no solutions and dismissed each person who approached her. District 85 and 86 had lines out the door around the school. I approached one poll worker who gave an old lady complaining a chair and asked her, why not take her to the front of the line and let her vote I am sure people will not mind. People started calling the board of elections and one after another asking what was going on. Almost all of the voting boxes were vacant and all of the volunteers (which are appreciated) but were standing all around the gymnasium. The issue was ONE table with 2 people and ONE book to check in people alphabetically. We observed it taking 3 - 5 Minutes per person at the table. The inefficiency was beyond belief. Finally some representatives started showing up and speaking to the coordinator. The coordinator for this disctrict should not hold this position again. Some cannot wait and must go to work and not lose income even for a few hours. Some cannot come back in the evening and this was highly inconvenient for all. I took photos and video as I left the scene to see the line still 2 blocks around the building and many children and elderly.

Nov. 06 2012 12:58 PM
Noel from W. 53rd St, NY

My wife and I went to vote this morning at our local polling site ( District 2, Assembly 67, PS 111 @ 440 W. 53rd St, NY, NY 10019 ). We were handed our sheets to fill in and upon going to the scanners were told by a young lady that mysteriously over night ”all” the scanners had become jammed and therefore not working. We questioned her at that point and we were told that someone was suppose to be there to repair the scanners already and no one had shown up to do so as of that time. The woman then took our ballots from us and proceeded to peruse both of them from top to bottom, look at us, and then stuck them thru a hole in a wooden box.

Nov. 02 2010 09:41 AM
The Westchester News from New York

Re: Cuomo is like an old flat pillar its time to get rid of him.

Andrew Cuomo endorsed the Islam Mosque near Ground Zero, and he accepted money from Islam Muslims. Americans do not trust Andrew Cuomo and they will let him know their passionate feelings at the polls.

The Westchester News from New York

It's Official New York State is the most corrupt Political State in the country.

Read This Article and watch all the videos about these Islam Muslims, and then tell me if you think they should have equal rights in America.  All it will take for us to lose our freedom in America is 20% Islam Muslims and they will take away our freedom and they will do to America what they did to Europe. 

Muslims are terrorist, it's not a religion it's a way of life!

When I was done with this story I had to vomit.

The Westchester News.Com

Sep. 14 2010 08:55 PM
The Westchester News from New York

It's Official New York State is the most corrupt Political State in the country.

Vote these corrupt politicians out of office!

The Westchester News.Com

Sep. 14 2010 06:11 PM

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