Bloomberg: 'Royal Screw-Up' by Election Officials

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City who bills himself as a non-partisan technocrat, unloaded some harsh criticisms on the New York City Board of Elections today after reports surfaced of problems at polling locations across the five boroughs. Calling the situation a "royal screw-up," the mayor said his office has received "disturbing" reports about polling places opening two to four hours late this morning, forcing some voters to leave without casting their ballots. He said he has also heard about broken or missing scanners and unhelpful poll workers.

The city spent more than $77 million to buy thousands of new voting machines that now replace the lever machines New Yorkers have used for about 80 years.

Speaking at the swearing-in of Civic Corps volunteers on Tuesday, the mayor said:

"Today, unfortunately, we are hearing disturbing reports that some polling sites have been very disturbing.

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.

It means some voters waited for hours – and other voters may not have a chance to cast their ballots at all.

We’ve also gotten reports of broken and missing scanners, emergency ballots, and poor customer service.

Other counties have also experienced problems, but I’m not sure any of them have been as severe as we’ve seen in our five boroughs.

Over the past five years, the City has provided the Board of Elections with more than $77 million to make the transition to the new machines – and that doesn’t include the $85 million in federal funds used to purchase the new 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. And let me repeat that for our Spanish speaking audience:

Los neoyorquinos merecen mejor – y ha llegado la hora de arreglarlo.

We owe that to all of you – and to every voter.

No democracy is perfect, but the more people participate in civic life, the stronger that the democracy is. 

And that’s why voting is so important – and that’s why the commitment we’re making today is so important – and I just want to thank all of you here and wish you all the best of luck. I wish our Board of Elections had performed as well as all of you guys are going to do."


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Comments [15]


Joke's on you all. I went to a forum to "try out" these new machines 6 months ago and knew they would be a nightmare. Told you so.
Get involved. Bring back levers and paper ballots. Get involved.

Sep. 15 2010 04:28 PM
Hambone from South Slope

@ David from Great Neck- The mayor has nothing to do with the appointment of the NYC Board of Elections. The ten members are appointed, two each, by the boro presidents and then confirmed by the City Council.

Sep. 15 2010 10:15 AM
Big T from The Bronx

My handyman who lives in Woodhaven Queens did not vote because the poll worker did not know how to operate the scanner. And most of the seniors here in the Bronx rented seeing eye dogs to help read the fonts!
I'll be amazed if the city reaches 2% participation!

Sep. 15 2010 02:26 AM
Andrea from Westchester

In my polling place in Westchester, the election workers were knowledgeable and helpful, and I had no scanner glitches. I was the only one there. There was an APPALLING lack of privacy. Why can't we have voting machines that function like ATMs? you want a receipt; you can get one, if not, you don't have to..

Sep. 14 2010 11:20 PM
David from Great Neck

Here in Nassau County we used a slightly different model; very 1980s; just like feeding into a fax machine.

Amusing that Bloomberg didn't like it because HE didn't vote (thought he quit the Republican Party) and he appoints the Board of Elections. So let him fix it by Nov. 2.

Serves him right! Paid enough to be mayor!

Sep. 14 2010 09:11 PM
Leslie from West 90s

The print on the ballot was tiny, so I needed to use the magnifier, which slowed me down. And I'm not someone who usually needs reading glasses. Can you imagine what will happen when there are bond issues we'll need to read? Having to be escorted to a scanner took more time. So even without a line, the process took way too much time. This is not a user-friendly system. One has to wonder what criteria were used to award the contract for these machines ...

Sep. 14 2010 07:49 PM
Les Clarke from Park Slope, B'klyn

The new voting "machines" are to election technology what "New Coke" was to soft drinks. Let's hope the Board of Elections can admit to a colossal mistake in design, as quickly, and find a more voter-friendly alternative before the next election cycle. Today's election is at best, a class action lawsuit waiting to happen, or at worst, a personal injury (eyesight) law bonanza!

Sep. 14 2010 07:31 PM
Les Clarke from Park Slope, B'klyn

The new voting "machines" are to election technology what "New Coke" was to soft drinks. Let's hope the Board of Elections can admit to a colossal mistake in design, as quickly, and find a more voter-friendly alternative before the next election cycle. Today's election is at best, a class action lawsuit waiting to happen, or at worst, a personal injury (eyesight) law bonanza!

Sep. 14 2010 07:30 PM
David from Sunnyside (Queens), NY

I agree that the typeface is small and hard to read on the ballot. Why is there so much writing on it? It should just list the candidates. I voted early and when I brought the ballot to the scanner, I was surprised that the poll worker was standing right beside me. I asked if the ballot went in face down and he said "either way" which was incorrect. The scanner rejected the ballot. He reset the scanner by tapping the screen. Then he watched me place my ballot face up in the scanner. Where is the privacy?

Sep. 14 2010 07:03 PM
AMBER from Brooklyn

I worked the polls last year. The board of elections is a mess and these issues do not surprise me at all. The training of poll workers is lax to say the least. The overall understanding of poll workers on all levels is disturbingly low. I personally saw many people turned away for all sorts of reasons, from language concerns to poll workers incorrectly guiding voters to other poll sites. New York City needs to take this seriously, and demand reform. I raised the issues I saw to the board of elections and got nowhere. This is a systemic problem that needs serious overhaul.

Sep. 14 2010 06:46 PM
Tony in The Bronx from The Bronx

I didn't have a problem in The Bronx this morning. The depressing thing was that almost no voters were there. As for privacy, the man running the scanner stood aside and and didn't watch.

Sep. 14 2010 06:27 PM
Steve from Inwood

Yes, the moving was a hot mess...but in my precinct, I was in and out! Privacy must be improved.

Sep. 14 2010 06:01 PM
Wayne Blood from UWS - Manhattan

I was truned away at the polls this moring because the ballots for my District (District 80 on the UWS of Manhattan) never arrived. I was told there is no idea when or if the ballots would arrive. I was told I'd have to come back later. We I expressed concern that my schedule wouldn't allow for that, I was told; "Then I guess you don't get to vote." Excuse Me? HOW IS THERE NO CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR MISSING BALLOTS?
I'm outraged at the ineptitude.

Sep. 14 2010 05:10 PM
Kristin Keefe from Inwood, Manhattan

I actually had a trouble-free experience at the Columbia voting station. My complaints are that the text is microscopic, and that my kids don't get to pull the lever for me at the end. The last time they did that was voting for Obama, and I hope it inspires them to vote the rest of their lives.

Sep. 14 2010 04:13 PM
Russell Mehlman from Brooklyn, NYC

Why were the lever machines replaced? They worked fine, at least I never had a problem with them, and I never heard of anyone else having a problem with them. $77 million? What a terrible waste of our money!

Sep. 14 2010 03:35 PM

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