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Technical problems plague Brooklyn polling places early on election day

Evening voting expected to be smoother

November 5, 2013 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Voting in several districts across Brooklyn – many in what might be considered “de Blasio territory” – got off to a rough start Tuesday morning with widespread reports of electronic voting machine malfunctions.

At busy polling location 101 Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights (52nd AD, 008 ED), a poll worker told a Brooklyn Eagle reporter that “none of the scanners were functioning” between 6 – 11 a.m. “They’re down all across District 52,” he added.

Just around the corner at Mt. Sinai Synagogue, poll workers said none of the scanners worked between 6 – 10 a.m. “We gathered voters’ ballots and ran them through the scanner ourselves after they were fixed,” one worker said.

One voter told the Brooklyn Eagle that Mt. Sinai was “quite crowded” during the 12:30-1 p.m. time frame. “I actually had to stand in line for a few moments. I would say that there were about 50-100 people there. I was voter #185 for my district. I asked whether other district tables had their own counts and the poll workers said yes, that didn’t mean I was the 185th person in there today, but just for [my district] alone.”

A 5 p.m. check found that Mt. Sinai was busy at 5 p.m. as well, with lines at many of the tables. No technical difficulties were reported at that time.

At the Twitter site provided by the NYC Board of Elections (#BOENYC), complaints rolled in during the morning rush. The majority of the complaints recorded by 1 p.m. appeared to originate in Brooklyn.

City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams tweeted: “Got a phone call that all scanners down at PS251 Ave I and E 54th street. (AD 59).”

Russell C. Gallo reported that both scanners were down at 1311 Brightwater Ave. (AD45 ED 75).

Erik Engquist wrote: “All scanners down at PS 282 Bklyn, 7 am. Ballots put in bins instead. Breakdowns elsewhere reported. Boo.” P.S. 282 is on 6th Avenue in Park Slope.

Matthew Patashnick tweeted around 11 a.m., “BOENYC site 11386 in Brooklyn. Staff unprepared, police yelling, scanners broken, lots of misinformation. Will this site ever be prepared?”

Joseph Alexis wrote in, “Scanner down in Crown Heights. Carroll Street btwn NY & Nostrand Avenues.
Brooklyn. (ED43/AD39).”

The story was the same at ED47/AD43, according to Daria Siegel, who tweeted, “57/043 no scanners working.”

Jeff Hoover said the scanners were down “and no verification at ED4/AD57 in Brooklyn.”

Several complaints came in about the machines at the busy polling site at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, a veritable hotbed of de Blasio support. Pete Sikora tweeted: “My wife just tried to vote at PS 29 (AD 52 ED 38) 425 Henry St. machines still down at 7:32am.”

“Esquire” tweeted around 8:45 a.m.: “Voting machines down at PS29 (Brooklyn) and they are out of envelopes for Affidavits. Please advise.” Scott Sommer also complained: “No scanners working at my polling place [P.S. 29]. No backup ballot boxes. Just single envelope doesn’t protect voter confidentiality.”

In Park Slope, de Blasio’s neighborhood, Jen Chung reported at roughly 9 a.m., “uh oh. All voting machines failed at PS 321 park slope this AM-6 machines, all votes in emergency box.”

BK Molly tweeted: (AD 52, ED 69). “Poll workers said they called first thing this morn, no repair yet.”

Daniel Cho reported about problems at the Church of the Open Door (Vinegar Hill/ Fort Green): “scanners down (AD 57, ED 004) – Church of the Open Door 201 Gold St, Brooklyn, NY 11201”

Others tweeted in technical problems at Brooklyn Tech High School (“All three scanners are broken. All ballots going into emergency box.”); P.S. 195 Irwin; P.S. 133 on Baltic Street; and P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights.

Poll workers told the Eagle that the machines were fixed quickly once technicians arrived, and expected that the evening rush would go more smoothly. The head of New York City’s Board of Elections, Mike Ryan, told WNYC the technical issue appeared to be “backup portable memory devices that wiggled loose while being shipped to their voting sites.”

Not all the problems were technical. Andrew Gounardes wrote, “We have multiple reports of poor lighting at polling place making ballot very hard to read. Christ Church 7304 Ridge Boulevard, BK. (AD 64 ED 076).

Aspiring poll worker Rena wrote in that she “attended training Oct 25 and passed exam, but never assigned to work today. No ‘notice to work’ sent. No calls. So no pay?” She tweeted later, “Contacted BK office yesterday, they don’t know why I wasn’t assigned even though I was listed as having attended class/passing exam.” And again, “I thought maybe notice to work was sent and got lost, but office said I was never assigned so there was no postcard to send.”

While complaints reported on Twitter leveled off by 2 p.m., problems still arose. “Please fix the accessible machine at PS 186 Brooklyn so I can vote!” one correspondent wrote in.

NYPIRG/Common Cause is running a voters helpline at 212-822-0282 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Alex Nunez, an intern at NYPIRG, told the Brooklyn Eagle the helpline had received from 15 – 20 complaints an hour during the morning rush. “Especially from senior citizens,” he said. “A lot of people want to bring back the lever system.” He added that “some people gave up” after experiencing difficulties.

Update at 5:35 p.m.: WNYC’s the technical issue appeared to be “backup portable memory devices.”

Update at 5:40 p.m.: A quote from Alex Nunez, an intern at NYPIR.

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