Some New Yorkers heading to the polls this Election Day have had to deal with extra wait times due to broken ballot scanners, but city officials urge residents to stay in line to still cast their ballot in the midterms.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said online that he’s “disappointed” to hear of broken ballot scanners at various New York City polling locations and that New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael J. Ryan should resign in the wake of the inconvenience.
“Voting should not be this difficult,” Johnson tweeted. “[NYC Board of Elections]has 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.”
This Election Day hiccup shows the need for Board of Elections reforms, he added, like early voting.
New York state does not allow any early voting, leading to some packed poll sites on Election Day. Currently 34 states plus the District of Columbia allow no-excuse early voting and this year, 33 million Americans nationwide cast their vote before Election Day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed he was aware of the broken scanners, as well. On Twitter, he pleaded for residents dealing with the inconvenience to “please stay in line” and echoed the idea that early voting and other reforms could help prevent this mishap in the future.
Why are ballot scanners breaking at some New York City polling locations?
This is the first year that New York City has had a two-page ballot, Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, told CBSNewYork, and that could be creating an issue with the ballot scanners.
Shout out to the reporter proudly wearing his City press badge and working the crowd at PS 22 in Brooklyn.
• Every scanner is broken.
• Voters are just finding walls to fill their ballots out on.
• And it sounds like the Emergency Ballot Box is filling up fast. pic.twitter.com/CNw0Brdp4g
— Rachael Voted & So Should You (@bookoisseur) November 6, 2018
“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,” he said.
Midterm elections don’t usually see as high of a voter turnout as presidential years, but these midterms have garnered extra attention across the country.
Ryan added that the rain “and people having wet clothing and perhaps ballots getting wet is contributing” to the broken machines. “The dryer, the crisper the ballot is, the less issues you’re going to have with the machine,” he added.
Johnson reitereated this point as well, saying that wet ballots caused by people waiting in line at their polling location in the rain are causing scanners to malfunction.
“This is a predictable problem,” Johnson said on Twitter. “We MUST fix and plan for next time!”
What to do if you encounter a broken scanner on Election Day
Ryan told voters to stay calm if they are dealing with a broken ballot scanner and assured that technicians will be fixing machines at various New York City polling locations.
If you do get stuck waiting due to a broken machine, don’t leave your New York City polling location without officially casting your ballot, officials say.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office is monitoring an Election Day hotline on Tuesday that any New Yorker can call if they experience issues at the polls.
The hotline has been receiving calls about broken scanners, Underwood confirmed on Twitter.
“Every eligible voter has the right to cast a ballot – including an emergency ballot if needed,” she added. “Do not feel pressured to leave your poll site before you vote, and call us with any issues.”
New York voters can reach the attorney general’s Election Day hotline at 800-771-7755 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Those resources will be available until 9 p.m. Election Day, the same time New York polls close. You can also call 311 if you run into issues at your polling location.