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New York City voting is once again a disaster

Pouring rain, long lines, broken scanners, and apparent security concerns prompted some voters to abandon their ballots

by Rex Santus
Nov 6 2018, 11:03pm

Voting in New York once again appears to be a shitshow.

As rain poured on and off all day, long lines, broken scanners, and apparent security concerns prompted some voters to reportedly abandon their ballots. Some fared even worse — one polling place in Brooklyn opened at least two hours late, according to the New York Daily News. The polls hadn’t even been open five hours before New York City Council Speaker Cory Johnson began publicly calling for the executive director of New York’s Board of Elections to resign.

“Voting should not be this difficult,” Johnson tweeted Tuesday. Johnson said the director, Michael Ryan, “had all year to prepare for this day. Bad weather and high turnout are no excuse when we have forecasts for both. Michael Ryan needs to resign and we need a full top-to-bottom review of what went wrong today.”

Ryan had defended the Board of Elections in an interview with CBS, saying that weather and a new form were complicating the process.

“What has just been suggested to me here, and seems to make sense, is that the weather and people having wet clothing and perhaps the 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,” Ryan said. He told the network the Board wasn’t seeing a larger percentage of ballot jams, but that it seemed like more because more people were turning out to vote.

“Overall the percentage of ballot jams is less than one half of one percent, but given the number of voters, it still turns out to be significant,” he told the New York Daily News.

But the malfunctions appeared to have a dampening effect. In Brooklyn, Borough President Eric Adams noted a number of polling places that had no functioning scanners or were down to just one due to malfunctions. By Adams’ early estimate, at least 22 Brooklyn locations experienced problems, according to the Daily News.

Columnist and activist Shaun King reported that his Brooklyn polling place had just one functioning voting machine with 300 people in line. Both King and a number of New York-based journalists reported seeing people leave without voting due to the confusion..

“Two people just dropped their unrecorded ballots and walked out in disgust. They just told us only one of four scanners is currently working. The line is now longer than when I got here an hour ago,” fitness blogger Hamilton Nolan said on Twitter. “And in the end they have us all push our ballots into the ‘Emergency ballots’ slot of a broken scanner to hopefully be recorded later. Good stuff”

Other Twitter users reported hours-long waits and broken machines at other polling sites in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio faced a comparatively accelerated 15-minute wait to cast his ballot in Park Slope. (Sen. Chuck Schumer’s wife wasn’t as lucky — he told the Daily News his wife waited an hour to vote.)

“It's not working for people,” de Blasio told the Daily News after voting around 9:45 am. “How in the 21st century do you still have poll sites that don't open? That would not be accepted — if a school didn't open in the morning, people wouldn't accept it, right?”

New York is a blue state with a Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, but the state’s voting laws more closely mirror deep-red states. New York has no early voting or "no-excuse" mail-in ballots, and polls are only open for 15 hours. And unlike the 17 states that allow voters to do same-day registration, New York voters are required to register at least 25 days in advance. Moreover, Election Day is not a holiday, so people often have to take time off work. New York City is home to 8.6 million people, all of whom have to show up to a polling place in person between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. to vote, rules that critics say discourage or suppress voter turnout.

During the primaries, when Cuomo faced off against his progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon, voters similarly complained of rampant problems at voting sites, including a number of complaints that voters had been purged from voting rolls without notice.

Cover image: NEW YORK, USA - NOVEMBER 06: Voters wait in the line to vote during the midterm election at the High School Art and Design polling station in Manhattan, New York, United States on November 06, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)