Board Of Elections Executive Director Blames 2-To 3-Hour Waits On New 2-Page Ballots And Weather Conditions Making Ballots Wet

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Technology is working against a lot of people hoping to cast their vote on this pivotal Election Day.

Scanners broke down all across the city, making already long lines even worse. Late Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the problem.

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“I don’t understand. This is my critique of the Board of Elections, with all due respect to them. We offered them $20 million to make improvements and reforms. They won’t accept it,” de Blasio said.

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CBS2’s Clark Fouraker was at P.S. 32 in Flushing, Queens, where three of the four voting machines went down earlier in the morning, resulting in very long lines. Technicians eventually got all the machines back up and running, but then two of them went down again.

At P.S. 22 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, there were massive lines due to similar problems with the machines.

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votingmachine Election Day Angst: Voting Machines Crash All Over NYC

A voting machine at P.S. 117 in Briarwood, Queens. (Photo: CBS2)

Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, tried to explain why the issues keep happening.

“We have a two-page ballot for the first time in the history of the city of New York,” Ryan said. “We’re not seeing a higher percentage, necessarily, of ballot jams, but in the aggregate, when you have higher turnout and you have more paper passing through the system you’re going to have some issues. What has just been suggested to me here, and seems to make sense is, that the weather, and people having wet clothing and perhaps ballots getting wet is contributing to that. The dryer, the crisper the ballot is, the less issues you’re going to have with the machine.

“So, we’re working on it. We did encourage people before Election Day to stay patient,” Ryan added. “We had a feeling it was going to be a high-turnout election and it’s turning out to be that way. We have a two-page ballot. We really need everyone to stay as calm as they can and participate in the process. And we’ll do our job on our end. We’ll make sure that we have the techs here to keep these machines humming along for the remainder of the day. We certainly apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused to any of the voters at this site to this point.”

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The poll manager at P.S. 32 told CBS2’s Fouraker that technicians are floating between different voting locations to try to keep the machines from going down.

De Blasio offered up a suggestion to help improve the Election Day experience going forward.

“I think a crucial item in Albany this spring is to pass legislation that would professionalize the Board of Elections and empower the executive director to make it a modern agency that runs like the rest of the government,” de Blasio said.

New York election officials noted that polls will not close for voters still waiting in line at 9 p.m.

The situation wasn’t much better across the Hudson River. Some Jersey City voters simply got fed up with the wait, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

“There’s two-to-three hours lines,” resident Bradley Gray said. “Two years ago it was the same situation and nothing was done. And there’s only two booths for this huge line that goes all the way around the building.”

“It’s disgusting. It’s voter suppression. That’s what it is, in my opinion. It’s a disgrace,” resident Patricia Astolfi added.

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Back in Manhattan, at the West 82nd Street location, the awful weather did not stop people from waiting in line to do their civic duty.

“It’s raining, it’s early in the morning and it seems more people are turning out than for the presidential election,” Upper West Side resident Barbara Zitwer said.

“They’re snaked around but they move only every 10-15 minutes,” Kathy Cadunz added.

So what’s a voter to do? In many instances they’re just toughing it out. Polls close in New York at 9 p.m. and in new Jersey at 8 p.m., so time, for now, is on their side.

Interim New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood reminded residents of her office’s Election Day Hotline, which is available to help troubleshoot and resolve a range of issues encountered by voters at the polls during Tuesday’s election. Underwood is urging voters experiencing problems or issues at the polls to call the office’s hotline at 800-771-7755 or email civil.rights@ag.ny.gov at any time between now and 9 p.m. The hotline will be staffed by attorneys and staff in the Attorney General’s Civil Right’s Bureau.