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Privacy Issues, Late Poll Openings Mar NYC Primary

Manhattan polling place

New Yorkers tried to flock to the polls on Sept. 14 for primary day, but were met with all kinds of machine glitches throughout the city. (PHOTO CREDIT DNAinfo/Jon Schuppe)

NEW YORK (AP) – A review of new voting machines used for the first time in New York City last month showed numerous problems in all five boroughs ranging from lack of privacy to polling sites opening late.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Tuesday that reports from the city Board of Elections also showed more than 700 sites with malfunctions like paper jams or broken machines that had to be swapped, as well as many untrained workers and voters having difficulty reading the small print on ballots.

The machines, which replaced an 80-year-old mechanical lever system, resemble ATMs and optically read paper ballots that voters feed in after marking them by pen.

“The Board of Elections wasn’t ready on primary day and some New Yorkers lost the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” DiNapoli said.

With almost 4.5 million registered voters in New York City, the city board had scheduled 34,800 workers at its 1,358 polling stations for the Sept. 14 primary. The machines will be used next in the Nov. 2 general election.

According to the report, many sites opened late for the primary, some delayed up to two and a half hours. In Manhattan, some 60 of 349 sites opened late. Privacy concerns included the failure to provide privacy sleeves, which allowed poll workers to see ballots, and workers standing too close to voters while their ballots were inserted into the scanner.

Of the workers sampled, 43 percent had not been properly trained.

Board officials told the comptroller’s office that some problems were fixed on primary night, that site coordinators and district monitors will be required to take extra training, and that poll workers who have not been trained or passed an exam have been told they will not work the November election.

A call to the board Tuesday was not immediately returned.

DiNapoli reported earlier this month there were also problems with the new machines in 44 of the 57 counties outside the city.

The comptroller recommended better coordination with the city Department of Education so machines can be delivered as scheduled to poll sites, many of which are schools, ensuring machines are tested and backups are available, and teaching workers how to help voters while keeping the process private.

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