New York

In Brooklyn, Delays and Lonely Votes

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The line for precinct 78 snaked its way through the gym of PS 58, as the election coordinators fielded every conceivable request. “When’s the last time you voted?” they asked the visitors. “September 11th? There’s been a census since then. They’ve redistricted the whole United States of America!”

Rebecca and Daniel’s attempts to vote — her first time in New York, and his first time ever — ran into bumps. Rebecca’s ordeal was worse. She registered by mail in mid-September, and heard nothing about her status for weeks, until the Brooklyn Board of Elections informed her that they got her registration, but too late — she wouldn’t be eligible to vote till November 9. Determined, she went to the election offices, and was told to come back on 7am on November 2, and see a judge.

Rebecca said she showed up, as she was told, at 7am this morning, and joined a handful of other people who had been told to come at 6. “By 8, people were getting upset,” she said. But still no judge, and nobody in the office had any information. Finally, by 11, it emerged that the judge was sitting in her chambers across the street. “I almost gave up,” said Rebecca, who said that most of the other people waiting — most of them standing, since there are few seats in the BOE offices — had either registered at the DMV, or were in the same boat as her.

“You should go hang out at the election offices,” she said. “People were bringing in absentee ballots, and were being told it was too late.” Rebecca, who pulled the lever for Kerry, said she knew her vote didn’t mean that much in New York, where the senator is expected to win easily.

(A nice woman in the absentee ballot department said there had been one such incident, but it had just been a misunderstanding. “Have you voted yet?” she asked.)

Daniel, 19, voted for Bush. “I know my vote doesn’t count in New York. But it means something for the popular vote.”

I recognized Daniel because I’ve played basketball with him before. He didn’t remember. “My whole family are Democrats,” he said. “It’s just an important election. Foreign issues, Iraq, security. Those things are important. I’m against abortion. I’m conservative.” It took Daniel an hour to vote, because he had to fill out an affidavit ballot.

The lines in the gym started to thin by 12:30. “That was nothing,” said one of the election coordinators. “Tonight will be crazy.”

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