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Uptown Voters Face Broken Scanning Machines and Confusion While Voting

By DNAinfo Staff on November 6, 2012 4:25pm

By Catherine Featherston and Jordan Davidson
Special to DNAinfo.com New York

UPPER MANHATTAN — Voters faced a torrent of problems when trying to vote uptown Tuesday morning, but none of the problems appeared related to Hurricane Sandy’s recovery effort throughout the city.

Reports of broken scanning machines were widespread uptown, where voters were told they would have to place their paper ballots in ballot boxes.

Zinnia Alvarado, 34, went to vote at 1833 Amsterdam Ave, at West 150th Street at 8:30 a.m. only to be told both machines were broken.

“Everyone is freaking out,” she said. “We’re afraid it’s going to be another stolen election.”

According to Alvarado, the poll site coordinator was giving people two choices: fill out an emergency ballot, or affidavit vote, which would not be counted today; or head downtown to the BOE's voting machine facilities at 200 Varick St. or 450 W. 33rd St. to have the ballot immediately counted.

A poll site coordinator who identified herself only as Ms. Southerland, confirmed that she had received instructions to send voters downtown if they were interested in being counted toward the popular vote.

A BOE spokeswoman said that the poll coordinator's instructions were incorrect, and that affidavit votes taken at poll sites are not counted immediately, if at all. Affidavit votes are only counted if the winner of the electoral college is in question.

Kevin Williams, 40, was also turned away at 1833 Amsterdam Ave., but decided to go home and wait until the machines were fixed.

“A lot is riding on this election,” he said. “The machines breaking down doesn’t bode well.”

Machines at the Nagle House on West 204th, between Nagle and Post avenues, were down for 30 minutes. The poll-site coordinator there said they had problems with voters putting their ballots in to the machines too forcefully and too fast.

“If something is wrong with the ballot — if it’s folded or ripped — the machine is not going to accept it” she said.

Three machines suffered paper jams in rapid succession just after 9 a.m. at P.S. 98 on West 212th Street in Inwood.  

The paper jams are easy to clear, but poll workers are not allowed to open the machine, according to poll worker Edward Braca.

“It’s easier than clearing a jam from a Xerox machine,” Braca said. “But, we need a technician to do it and a cop to watch to make sure it’s all legit and nothing gets tampered with.”

An Emergency Ballot slot was opened on one machine where voters dropped their ballots. When that box filled up, the emergency slot was opened on a second machine.

“Look at the lines and we’ve already filled one of the boxes,” said Christina Diamond, a poll worker manning a special Ballot Marking Device for people with disabilities. “If a technician doesn’t get here, we’re going to run into huge problems. We’re not equipped to handle the volume.”

Unlike the scanning machines, when voters dropped their ballots into the box, voters do not receive a confirmation that their vote has been counted.

“That’s scary,” said Inwood resident Debra Walton-Hill. “That makes me nervous. You see broken machines and you think back to Florida in 2000.”