Brooklyn Boro

‘Blowout voter turnout’ across Brooklyn, but busted scanners and weather cause chaos

November 6, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Unprecedented voter turnout combined with malfunctioning ballot scanners caused frustration and havoc at polling sites across Brooklyn for Tuesday’s midterm election. Shown above: Voters at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Height were “packed wall to wall and everyone is grumpy.” Eagle photo by Sara Bosworth

Elected Officials: ‘It Was a Mosh Pit ... A Complete Disgrace'

Unprecedented voter turnout combined with malfunctioning ballot scanners caused frustration and havoc at polling sites across Brooklyn for Tuesday’s midterm election. Long queues wrapped around corners and down the blocks in Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Greenpoint and Bay Ridge, among other neighborhoods.

The line at P.S. 8 in the northern Heights during the morning rush hour snaked down the street and wrapped around the corner. The situation became critical when all four scanners stopped functioning.

“I’m voting at P.S. 8 now and it’s insane,” reported Brooklyn Eagle staffer Sara Bosworth. “Packed wall to wall and everyone is grumpy.”

A poll worker at P.S. 8 told this reporter, “Line wrapped around the corner and I was like ‘Oh, my God. I kept calling the Board of Elections every hour and hour. They never answered the phone.”

Many voters had to fill out emergency ballots, which were sealed into official BOE bags, according to the worker. Eventually BOE technicians “just showed up.” It took just over a half hour to repair the machines, the worker said. “We’re up and running again, thank God.”

The line at the polling site at 101 Clark St. in Brooklyn Heights wrapped under building scaffolding up a ramp to Clark Street and continued towards Henry Street.

Heights resident Andrew Porter said via email, “Went out at 9:45 a.m. in order to beat the rain, but that was not to be. The wait on line was over an hour, in first the mist, then the drizzle, then the downpour … My voting number was 227, highest in a really long time. The scanner showed the forms being scanned were over 2,000.”

At Boerum Hill polling site P.S. 261, there were “way more voters than the 2016 election,” a resident texted. “We have been here for 22 minutes. Still waiting to scan our ballots.” Only two out of the five scanners were working due to the overload, she added.

Eagle staffer Francesca Norsen Tate reported from St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights around noon that “There is a line [in the] heavy rain going back to the Spencer Mews building.”

While some scanners were repaired in the morning, others broke down as the day progressed.

At 4:30 p.m., Borough President Eric Adams tweeted, “I just arrived at the polling site at PS 264 in #BayRidge. ALL of the ballot scanners are down, @BOENYC. This is a complete disgrace. We need to know when technicians will be here ASAP. Lawyers are onsite and monitoring this situation. We need serious, serious reform.”

Millman: Never Seen a Line Like It

Joan Millman, former Assemblymember and current District Leader of District 52, told the Eagle that she had never seen a line like the one at 101 Clark St.

“And I just came from St. Francis where people are waiting outside in the rain with umbrellas and baby carriages. It stretched all the way down to the corner and around the block. So I called the site coordinator and asked him to stop by and see if they can open up the auditorium to let people wait inside,” Millman said.

“It’s taking people longer to feed their ballots into the scanners because they now have two sheets of paper. They also need time to read the ballot proposals, and because of the overworked scanners, we had breakdowns,” she said, adding that she would be running to P.S. 8 after her visit to 101 Clark St.

“People are not giving up, they’re just waiting,” she said.

A Mosh Pit

City Councilmember Brad Lander (D – Carroll Gardens, Park Slope) told AP that he opted to wait at his polling place in a line about 100 people long, only to learn as he neared the front that the fourth scanner had also broken.

“It was a mosh pit,” Lander said.

A resident who did not want to be named said he waited about an hour and a half at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights. Someone was selling food along the line, he said.

“My polling place is a mess. The lines are all mixed up. No one knows which line is which. I think I’m on the line for the scanner,” he told an Eagle staffer. “I filled out my ballot on the line because I don’t even know if there’s a line for the tables where you fill them out. It’s a huge crowd, so I guess that’s good.”

Eagle staffer Stephanie Kotsikonas experienced similar crowds when she voted at P.S. 170 in Bay Ridge.

“They were giving people pens to fill out while on the line because they didn’t want people to get frustrated and leave,” she said.

Kotsiconas said she was surprised that people actually filled out their ballots on line.

“Isn’t it supposed to be confidential?” she asked.

The Bridge publication tweeted that only one out of five ballot-scanning machines were operable at Cobble Hill’s P.S. 29. “Result: long line in mid-afternoon,” they reported.

WNBC reported that FDNY was called to pry open a locked Brooklyn polling station at Cooper Union’s Breukelen Community Center in Canarsie. Firefighters got the doors open a little before 6:30 a.m., but it was the wrong entrance. It took two hours to get the right key.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for the resignation of Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan.

“Every election is like Groundhog Day: long lines, polling site issues, huge problems. Now we’re blaming the weather?” he tweeted. “It’s unacceptable & unfair to voters. Michael Ryan should resign &we should begin a top to bottom review of how this happened. It’s time for new leadership at BOE.”

Assemblymember Walter Mosley said in a statement that the Board of Elections has “once again shown their incompetence.” He said the state Senate needs to make early voting a reality next year to avoid the chaos that elections have turned into.

Sanity at Fort Hamilton Library

At Fort Hamilton Public Library, one of Bay Ridge’s polling places, the Election Day scene was busy but no major technical problems presented themselves during the morning rush, Eagle reporter Lore Croghan reported.

At 9:30 a.m., five people were waiting to sign in at a desk with election workers. All six voting booths in the room were occupied.

Workers painstakingly explained to each voter how to tear the two-page ballot apart and feed it into a scanner one page at a time, Croghan said. The workers pointed out that both sides of each ballot page have candidates or issues on them. None of the voters present at that time said anything about being confused by the ballot, she added.

The small polling site at 10 Clinton St. in Brooklyn Heights was busy but scanners were operating properly around noon.

Susan Raboy told the Eagle that she was number 484 on her voting machine, and she typically was closer to 100. The site handles only building residents.

Worth the Wait

Despite the long waits, the rain and the malfunctions, voting was worth it for many.

Brooklyn Heights mom Alisha Brooks, after casting her ballot at P.S. 8, said that voting “allows us to have some sort of say so in how our country is ran and how our city is ran. And it’s just as important to show our children that they should also be voting too, because it’s really important.”

“I can’t even talk; I’m so upset about politics,” Gerry Sheridan told the Eagle. “It’s so upsetting what is happening in this country. Unfortunately, the Republicans have just jumped the shark. I just hope everybody gets out and votes, I don’t care what the weather is.”

“It’s definitely an important day. I think all people should get out and vote,” said Evan Etter.

Another regular voter casting his vote at P.S. 8 was Sherief Elkatsha. “Seems like it’s an exciting one. We’ll see what happens,” he said.