Voting Headaches Greet Mayoral Candidates and Primary Day Voters
NEW YORK CITY — Voting snafus across the city snarled the democratic process on Tuesday — including for the city's mayoral candidates.
Republican mayoral front-runner Joe Lhota had to fill out an emergency paper ballot after his voting machine broke down, while Anthony Weiner had to get special permission to vote from a high-ranking Board of Elections staffer when his signature was missing from the roll book, their campaigns said.
Lhota was one of a host of voters who had trouble with the old lever machines — which were resurrected for fear the new touch-screen voting machines would be too unstable for the primary — as problems popped up across the city, election monitors said.
"We're getting a steady flow of calls on the main complaints," said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which runs a voter help hotline.
Callers to the hotline reported 18 broken machines in Brooklyn, 10 in Manhattan, seven in Queens, three in The Bronx and only one on Staten Island, Russianoff reported about 2 p.m.
A spokeswoman for the Board of Elections said a tally of those polling places that experienced problems Tuesday would come after the election.
"We monitor them throughout the day and immediately send staff to address the concerns at any polling place that reports a problem," said Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.
"Right now, our focus is to conduct the election and to make sure everyone has an opportunity to vote," she added.
In addition to broken machines, Russianoff said many voters had trouble finding their name on voting rolls.
When a poll worker couldn't find Democratic mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner's signature alongside his name in the book of eligible voters, they tried to give him an affidavit ballot, his campaign said.
But Weiner's campaign called a high-ranking Board of Elections official who told the worker to let him vote, the campaign said.
Brooklyn polling places where problems were reported included Brooklyn Technical High School, P.S. 256, J.H.S. 142, J.H.S. 257, the Park Slope Armory and Lhota's polling place in Brooklyn Heights' Congregation Mount Sinai.
Fort Greene resident Yashna Padamsee, 34, said she was concerned when poll workers at Brooklyn Tech told her she needed to fill out an emergency paper ballot rather than use a lever machine.
"I was a little worried," she said. "I hear so much about votes not being counted."
Two out of the four voting machines at Brooklyn Tech were broken for the first seven hours of primary day, workers there said.
Syedur Dastagir, coordinator at the Park Slope Armory polling place, said one machine was down for 30 minutes until a mechanic returned it to service.
"This machine was out of order," he said. "[But] voting continued."
City Councilman Brad Lander turned to Twitter to report voting problems in Park Slope.
"Please help! @BOENYC Many machines broken at Park Slope Armory (44th AD in Brooklyn)," he wrote Tuesday morning, adding later that some voters left because of the delays.
"@BOENYC MT @dramagal: @bradlander At Rose Gardens on Greenwood & PPSW too. Candidates listed but you can't turn knobs for them," Lander tweeted later.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which sent lawyers to more than 50 polling places, reported seven broken voting machines in Queens and Manhattan. These included two out-of-order machines at P.S. 131 in Jamaica, where at least 15 voters were seen leaving without voting, according to AALDEF.
And a stuck lever left the polling site at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on 10th Avenue without one of its voting machines. Site coordinator Rose Ng said the machine was out of order for at least an hour until BOE officials had it repaired.
Election officials decided to resort to the older lever voting machines during Tuesday's primaries because the newer electronic machines used in 2012 confused voters, sparked long lines and caused problems during the tallying process.
Critics said the emergency paper ballots could take longer to tally after polling places close at 9 p.m. Tuesday, because they have to be hand-counted.
At J.H.S. 190 in Queens, site coordinator Stephen Pheffer said one of the lever machines was down and another was not working very well.
“It’s kind of clunky and we actually had to unstick it for some of the votes but the votes went through, as far as I know," Pheffer said.
In Midtown, one machine serving District 12 broke, prompting Gregg Kaminksy, 46, to cast his votes for Christine Quinn, Eliot Spitzer and Corey Johnson with a paper ballot.
"It was a little odd," Kaminsky said. "It felt a little like student council."
With reporting by Leslie Albrecht, Paul DeBenedetto, Ben Fractenberg, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Iris Mansour, Alan Neuhauser, Andrea Swalec and Nikhita Venugopal.