Voter Confusion At Morningside Heights Poll

By Farran Powell on November 6, 2012 2:50pm | Updated on November 6, 2012 2:52pm

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — When the voter-registration book arrived at the polling site at P.S. 36 Tuesday morning, just one name was printed inside the document that should have included hundreds from the election district, officials said.

That, coupled with a lack of voting machines at the West 122nd Street polling site, forced voters to switch to paper ballots — creating confusion and reducing voter turnout uptown, workers said.

"It's been mass confusion," admitted poll station coordinator Nataline Oblisle-Vanderburg at P.S. 36. "The machines should have been here last night." 

While there was no line inside the cafeteria at P.S. 36 Tuesday morning, the late arrival of the two voting machines and the missing voter-registration log delayed the process for many. 

The voting machines finally arrived at the poll station shortly before 8 a.m., two hours after the voting opened to the public, a poll station worker said. 

But even with the operational voting machines, the station was forced to switch to paper ballots because the site's registration log only contained a single voter. 

"The book only has one name in it," Oblisle-Vanderburg said. "We have to let people vote by affidavit right now."

The few voters who turned up at P.S. 36 were surprised by the absence of a line and the use of paper ballots.

"I wasn't expecting it," said Dennis Rodriguez, 60, about sealing his paper ballot in an envelope. "It's a bit discouraging to see this place so empty. I don't know — Sandy could not have affected this."

One frustrated voter event told a poll worker, "I'll come back after work." 

The voting station's coordinator contacted the electoral board to request an emergency dispatch to resolve the missing voter list.

Voters at the poll station used old-fashioned booths to mark their votes before sealing them in a brown envelope and handing it to a poll worker. 

"They give you a paper ballot, and then you go into a privacy booth," said Elena Reed, a Morningside Height resident who decided to vote in the morning instead of waiting. "It's very different than last time when they use to have the old machines."

Only a handful of voters decided to vote at P.S. 36 on election morning. 

"Last time you couldn't even get in because it was so packed," said Rodriguez  who voted at the same poll station in 2008. 

Voting at other neighborhood polling sites in the election district appeared to operate smoothly Tuesday morning, and no problems were reported at the Grant Houses location at 1320 Amsterdam Ave, just a block from P.S. 36. 

At another polling station inside the housing complex, located at La Salle and Broadway, voters experienced problems with one voting machine but otherwise reported no issues. 

"The machines have been working since last night," said the station's poll coordinator, Karen Crawford. "We had a problem with one machine, but it's working now." 

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