Long waits, confusion for voters heading to the polls; Bloomberg criticizes BOE

Voters wait in line for the polls to open so they can cast their ballots in the at a polling site built to service residents of Breezy Point and the Rockaways whose original site was damaged during Sandy.

After a mad dash to reorganize the city’s polling places affected by Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers are free to cast their ballots today and let their voices be heard — if they have the time.

Voters are being met with waits as long as an hour and a half at many of the city’s more than 1,100 polling places. Though Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order yesterday that let New Yorkers displaced by the storm cast their vote by affidavit at any polling place, confusion continued to mount after the new locations for dozens of polling places were announced just two days ago.

Voters were encouraged to double check their polling place location on the Board of Election’s website or use its Smartphone app. The adjustment has caused disarray at some locations as poll workers struggle to determine which voters require paper ballots and affidavits. The BOE said it is not requiring people to provide proof they were displaced by Sandy in order to vote at a polling place other than their assigned location.

At the Fashion Institute of Technology, a polling location in Chelsea, frustration ran high as overwhelmed poll workers struggled to direct increasingly confused voters.  Freelance editor Anthony Calcara, 48, encountered a bit of confusion trying to vote. He told Metro he wasn’t sure what the issue was, but it had something to do with his voter card number having changed two years ago, possibly from adjustments in districting.

Still, he said, the whole voting process only took him about 15 minutes in total.

“Not bad considering what some people are going through,” he commented.

Calcara said he cast his vote for Obama.

“I’m gay and sane, so I can’t vote for the other side,” he quipped.
 
At the same polling center, a worker wove between the district lines, seeking out people standing in the wrong line.

“You have to ask me,” she said in exasperation to a voter complaining he didn’t where to stand.

“Yeah, but we don’t know what line,” he insisted. “Where are the signs?”

The poll worker pointed to an unmanned information table, before rushing
over to a line of people she had ordered to stand there. She then
intercepted a voter who was being sent to the wrong line by another poll
worker.

That polling attendant apologized to a nearby voter.

“I’m just an interpreter,” he explained. “But we’re overwhelmed with people.”

At a polling center at 81 New Street with four booths and two scanners, Criminal Court Judge Robert Kay, 65, waited an hour and a half while both scanners were nonfunctional.

He had the opportunity to cast an emergency ballot, but he declined.

“Who says it’s going to get counted and when?” he asked.

After waiting to scan his ballot, Kay expressed disbelief at the voting system in general.

“In this day and age, we have to worry that your ballot could potentially need to be hand-counted?” he demanded. “At least I know my vote counted.”


Bloomberg blames delays on Board of Elections snafus

Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the many complaints emerging from the polls today and said he, too, waited in a long line before voting. He pointed the finger at the Board of Elections for failing to make the proper preparations.

Bloomberg said the BOE delivered several voting machines late to locations and opened the sites behind schedule. He also said the BOE didn’t have enough fuel for generations at at least one polling place.

“When we became aware of it, the Department of Education did deliver
fuel to that polling site,” Bloomberg said.  “If these were the only problems the Board of Elections encountered
today, we should consider ourselves very lucky – but unfortunately,
based on its history, that is not likely to be the case.”

According to Nicholas Sbordone of the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, of the 136,601 calls to 311 before 5 p.m. Tuesday, 407 of them were complaints about polling sites. Complaints could include locations opening late, a lack of accessibility or long lines. Sbordone said those types of calls are forwarded to the Board of Elections phone bank.

Board of Elections: ‘Long waits to be expected’

Officials acknowledged the less than ideal scenario at many locations, but insisted they were doing everything in their power to get New Yorkers to the polls, including providing shuttles for voters throughout the day.

“The fact is that we were dealing with a small window of time to communicate changes to those affected,” Valerie Vazquez, a spokesperson for the BOE, told Metro. “The reality is we have had to consolidate or relocate existing poll sites to accommodate voters after Sandy.”

Vazquez said long waits at polling places for presidential elections are typical and not necessarily a result of disorganization.



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