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City Sets Aside Voting Machine in Midtown for Single Voter Who Didn't Show

By Alan Neuhauser | September 11, 2013 7:40am
 Of six voting machines at 213 W. 58th St., one was set aside for a single mystery voter.
Polling Site at 213 W. 58th St.
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MIDTOWN — A single Midtown voter had a private voting booth and two workers set aside just for him at a primary day polling site on West 58th Street — even though he'd apparently moved out of the area.

The man — amazingly the only person eligible to vote in a tiny district that covers less than a single block —  never showed up, poll workers said.

"It's frustrating, it's ludicrous, to be here for hours," one of the booth's poll workers said, asking not to be identified because she was instructed not to speak to the press.

"I've worked elections where it's been quiet, but never a situation like this."

The Board of Elections attributed the mix-up to outdated voting rolls.

"He did not inform the board that he'd moved," BOE communications director Valerie Vazquez said.

"We're not checking to see if a person has moved or not. It's not realistic. They have to inform the board if they're no longer at the polling site. We have to make sure we're fully staffed to be able to serve the voters who live in that particular site."

Before he moved, the voter first received his very own voting booth through an oddity in the city's election districting.

Each district gets its own voting booth, and the size of each district is determined by population. Most measure just a few blocks.

All individual election districts are grouped by state Assembly District. District 75 on Manhattan's East Side, for example, has slightly more than 100 election districts. Assembly District 67 on the West Side has slightly fewer.

This voter's individual district, number 93, is on a border, not only sandwiched between Assembly Districts 67 and 75, but also abutted by Columbus Circle.

As a consequence, it covers less than a single square block — a wedge stretching from 57th Street to Columbus Circle, between Eighth Avenue to Broadway. It's grouped into Assembly District 75.

"A teeny, teeny, teeny election district," said a state political official with access to voter registration records.

The district is largely comprised of commercial properties, but at one point it held just two apartment buildings — one on West 57th Street and the other on West 58th Street.

Together, they were home to eight registered voters — seven unaffiliated with either of the two major parties, and the eighth the voter in question, a registered Democrat with an address at a commercial building at 251 W. 57th St., the official told DNAinfo New York.

That building, now known as 3 Columbus Circle, underwent a gut renovation in 2008 after becoming nearly vacant. At a residential address just a block away that also listed the voter as a resident, a doorman there said he moved away two years ago.

Attempts to reach the man were unsuccessful. Voting files show he did not cast a ballot in 2012.

"Not a good voter," the official said, going on to call him and the private booth "a hit to the BOE for being inefficient."

For 15 hours, as hundreds of voters lined up to cast ballots at five neighboring machines at the site, and as dozens of other ballot machines across the five boroughs jammed and broke, the single machine sat unused.

Its pair of pollworkers, each paid $200 for the day, passed the time chatting, reading, doing crosswords, and exchanging photos of their grandchildren.

"It's very unusual," the site's poll coordinator Ines Reuss said. "I've never heard of this before. I think it's crazy."