Chaos as Brooklyn tries to get out the vote

November 6, 2012 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sandy damages voting polls, Brooklyn.
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“We appreciate your patience as we sort out what will undoubtedly be a challenging Election Day,” the New York City Board of Elections tweeted mid-day in what was turning into one of the most chaotic elections in recent memory.

At voting districts hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, confusion reigned as thousands of voters were assigned new polling sites at the last minute. People in areas like Gerritsen Beach and Manhattan Beach reported that with no electricity or gas, they would forgo voting.

Even in districts not seriously affected by Hurricane Sandy, voters reported long lines and, in some places, utter pandemonium.

“In my neighborhood it was chaos,” an East Flatbush resident told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He said he arrived at his polling place, P.S. 152, around 11 a.m. “I waited in line two hours but I still didn’t get to vote. They said my blocks had moved because of redistricting and I had to vote at another school, P.S. 269. I waited two-and-a-half hours at the second school. When I got up front, they said they couldn’t find my district. So I never voted,” he said. “People are on the verge of clashing. Councilman Jumaane Williams was there trying to calm people down.”

“The line at P.S. 152 is ridiculous,” tweeted Councilman Williams on Tuesday morning. “People are leaving because it is too long. Unacceptable.”

A resident of Concord Village in Downtown Brooklyn said she arrived at her polling place at City Tech on Jay Street around 9:40 a.m. “I waited a half hour, then I had to leave. People were saying it took them one-and-a-half hours. There were three lines to stand in – one to register, one for a booth, and one to scan.” She added, ” I hope to go back and do it after work.”

Brooklyn Heights resident Sven Krogius told the Brooklyn Eagle that there was “general confusion” at his polling place at Mount Sinai Synagogue on Cadman Plaza East. “People didn’t know what line to stand in and nobody was directing. It took about an hour altogether.”

Another Heights resident said he went to vote at St. Ann’s Church on Montague Street around 8:45 a.m. “The lines were out the door. Some district lines were longer than others,” he said. “Because I was walking with a cane and my gait was halt, I was allowed to go to the front of the line. People were very accommodating. But everybody else seemed particularly exasperated. They were extremely polite . . . but increasingly frustrated.” He added, “The workers seemed to be doing the best they could.”

Poll workers at 101 Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights said that one of the two scanning machines had broken early in the day, causing a long line that snaked around the interior of the room. By 1:45 p.m. the machine had been repaired and the waits were reasonable.

A Bedford-Stuyvesant resident told the Eagle that it had taken her one-and-a-half hours to vote at her polling place at P.S. 3 on Jefferson Avenue between Franklin and Bedford. “I arrived at 7:40 a.m.,” she said. “There were approximately six different districts. The line for mine was, unfortunately, the longest. I hear from friends it’s taking them from 45 minutes to two hours.”

“Not too late to postpone local elections, Councilman Williams tweeted mid-day. “We’ve done it before. Let’s not gamble w/people’s right to vote.”

Besides disorganization caused by Hurricane Sandy and the Board of Elections, the separate lines for privacy booths and scanners added to the delay, some voters said. (Voters did not have to contend with filling in tiny circles in the privacy booths when using the old-fashioned voting machines.) The narrow type font on this year’s ballots was also causing delays among those with weaker eyes.

Gotham Gazette suggested that frustrated voters call the Attorney General’s office at 800-771-7755 or email [email protected] to report elections complaints to Civil Rights Bureau.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed on Monday an executive order allowing New Yorkers to cast affidavit ballots at any polling place in the state. However, people doing so would only be able to vote in the national elections, not local legislative races.

Not everyone had a dire tale to tell, however. A Midwood resident who arrived at the Friends Field field house at Avenue L and East 4th Street around 7:45 a.m. said he was in and out in 17 minutes. “As smooth as it could be,” he said.

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