Ballot Issues, Privacy Concerns Hamper NYC Polling Places
NEW YORK (CBS New York) – It’s decision day and the control of Congress hangs in the balance. Many voters who cast their ballots reported numerous issues from jammed scanners to privacy problems.
The magic number on Tuesday was 218. Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to reach the majority needed to control the House.
But just like on primary day, polling place issues popped up at various places throughout New York City. Derricke Dennis reports from Park Slope, where many voters experienced problems at their local polling sites.
There was mixed results for New York’s new hybrid analog/digital voting system. At PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, early reports had two of the three ballot scanners out of service because of paper jams.
“It was earlier but we got it taken care of within a half hour, taken care of right away,” poll worker Sandra Igneri said.
Then at PS 41 in Bayside, Queens, voters complained the paper ballots themselves were printed entirely too small for them to accurately pencil in. Others missed the instructions to turn the ballots over and fill out the referendum questions on the back.
“Even with glasses, even with the light, it’s too small. What were they thinking? They don’t have enough paper,” resident Stella Tatarian said.”It’s really silly. I mean everybody here has been complaining. I mean the elderly can’t read this at all,” Ed Tatarian added.
The September primary was the first election since the city retired the decades old lever system. But modern is not always better, according to one New York City councilman. Mechanical support is vital.
“There’s no backup, so when these techs are coming, and they’re doing a great job, but when they’re not able to fix it, we don’t have a redundant machine to bring in to replace the machines that are down,” Councilman Daniel Halloran said.
Overall, voting problems appeared to minor despite some concerns over privacy. Special sleeves designed to conceal ballot choices, in many cases, were being removed by voters who needed help with the scanning process. Their votes were in the hands of poll workers and their privacy was potentially compromised. Still, most said they welcomed the new system.
“Much easier than using the machines, so that worked out for me very well,” Ira Warheit said.
“It took me five minutes to get in and out. You got a lot of people in there,” said Ken Reilly of Brooklyn.
At the Camp Friendship polling place in Park Slope, which opened three hours late back on Primary Day because someone lost the keys to the scanners, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio was there and returned with a better review Tuesday.
“Things were smooth. In fact the poll worker reminded me that you have to look on both sides of the ballot, because the referendum questions are on the back of the ballot,” Blasio said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed, but not completely.
“The machine worked. I think, I happen to think we would be better off with computers,” the mayor said.
There were scattered reports of hiccups at suburban polls. One of three ballot-scanning machines was out of service at the church in Mount Kisco where the Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, voted Tuesday morning.
A polling station in Hartsdale reportedly opened about two hours late because election workers couldn’t get access to locked-up ballots.
Tuesday voters were advised to pay special attention to the ballot itself, which included at least one error. It did not properly instruct voters to fill in the oval below the name of the candidate of their choice.
“Make sure you’re voting for the person you’re voting for and not the person above or below,” Bloomberg said.
“Love people doing that, but it is complete chaos. The idea that we’re filling out paper. And these scanning machines, it’s not even private,” said Lauren Shenkman of Park Slope.
In Astoria, coordinator Loretta Csikortos said she’s experienced a one hour technical delay on more than half of her scanners and an ongoing personnel shortage. “Early this morning we had about four scanners that weren’t cleared,” she said. “I don’t have enough people. Because you need two people per table.”
Csikortos said as a result of that shortage in her polling place, some voters had to manage the electronic scanner on their own, and the staff she does have is skipping lunch.
If you vote in New York City, don’t forget to turn over your ballot. Voters are deciding whether to reinstate a law limiting city elected officials to two, four-year terms.
If the ballot initiative loses, the current three-term limit created by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2008 will remain in place.
Polls opened in all three states in the tri-state at 6 a.m. New York voters will have until 9 p.m. to cast their ballots.
Polls close at 8 p.m. in New Jersey and Connecticut.
If you experience any voting problems, you can report them by clicking here.