What the heck happened? The New York City Board of Elections just met with the City Council a few weeks ago to ensure things would run smoothly at polling sites yesterday.
Unfortunately, there was nothing “smooth” about the voting process for many city residents.
“On the day of the election many poll sites experienced significant difficulties, including late openings, malfunctioning voting machines, inadequately trained poll workers, a lack of privacy when casting ballots, poll site accessibility problems, and other issues,” according to a City Council report.
There’s one problem with the description above. It’s detailing issues from 2010! That’s the year that the City made the federally mandated conversion from the old lever-based voting machines to the new paper-ballot/electronic-scanning machines.
Several City Council oversight hearings and many elections later, the media, residents and politicians still reported countless instances of long delays and serious screw-ups at polling sites across the city yesterday. City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who drilled the BOE during the Oct. 15 hearing, pressured the BOE throughout the day to correct the many issues that plagued polling sites within his East Flatbush district in Brooklyn.
“This is outrageous, disgraceful and disrespectful to what voting should be @BOENYC I didn’t think you could top the primary, but CONGRATS!” Williams wrote on his Twitter.
Ridiculously long lines and poor coordination burdened his constituents at sites such as Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church, P.S. 135, P.S. 181, P.S. 269 and P.S. 198. Williams also observed hazardous conditions at many of the polling sites and a bevy of inadequately trained workers. Several polls ran out of affidavits for voters not listed, for whatever reason, in their district’s BOE registration books.
While many polling sites throughout the city ran well, there were way too many that experienced problems similar to those that Williams documented in his district. It took me over an hour-half to cast my vote at the P.S. 262 polling site in Bedford-Stuyvesant yesterday afternoon. Voters who headed over to cast their ballot at the site in the evening reported three-hour long voting delays.
Several of the veteran voters, who waited on line with me, said that they’d never waited longer than 20-30 minutes to vote at that site in the past. The Help Americans Vote Act of 2002, which mandates that states replace punch-card and lever systems with ones that allow for voters to correct any errors that they may make, was supposed to make things more fair. But, since the inception of the paper ballot in 2010 things seem to have gotten much worse — as many eligible voters left in disgust without casting their vote.
Massive five-six hour delays were reported at Canarsie High School after four of its voting machines broke down during the day and weren’t fixed until 4 p.m. yesterday, according to a News 12 Brooklyn report. When asked about machine malfunctions at the Oct. 15 hearing, the BOE said it was taking measures to prevent malfunctions and provide quick repair assistance.
It appears that paper jams, often caused by the length of the ballots and improper operation, are the reason why many machines break-down, the BOE said at the hearing. For a technology supposedly aimed at advancing the city’s voting system, the transfer to paper balloting has proved to be more of a step backwards over the past two-three years.
“#ElectionDay is over on a high note. It’s time to get back to our #Sandy#recovery,” Williams tweeted last night. “And it’s time for the @BOENYC to be held accountable.”