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'Where Do We Go?' Voters Face Delays, Confusion at City Polling Sites

 Voters dealt with problems and confusion at several polling sites around the city.
Voters dealt with problems and confusion at several polling sites around the city.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

NEW YORK CITY — Voters who cast their ballots in the city’s primary elections Tuesday were met with problems and confusion at several polling sites — leaving some to skip their civic duty altogether.  

A pair of polling locations in Sunset Park failed to open on time due to inactive ballot scanners, while voters in the Lower East Side and Corona had to contend with relocated sites.

At P.S. 126 in Chinatown on Tuesday morning, voters flocked to their appointed sites only to be redirected to two other locations nearby. 

Campaign workers posted outside the Catherine Street school's entrance to distribute fliers said they had been helping direct confused locals all morning to the new sites — inside the Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center behind P.S. 126 and the Hamilton Madison House on Madison Street.

“People come up to us saying, ‘Where do we go?’” said Carolina Marte, City Council candidate Christopher Marte’s sister, who had been distributing materials for her brother’s campaign near the school's entrance since 5:30 a.m.

“This lady walked away and said, 'I’m not going to vote because it’s too complicated,’” she added, saying that many elderly voters were overwhelmed by the directions.

Longtime Knickerbocker Village resident Walter Molinelli, 92, meanwhile, tried to enter the school from the side, where signs with directions to the new polling sites were not visible.

“It’s a joke — it’s a big joke,” he complained.

A polling coordinator working in the recreation center said that the Board of Elections made the site change because P.S. 126 was not wheelchair-accessible.

Voters dealt with a similar situation at LeFrak City in Corona, which lost its longtime polling site in May to two other locations a third and three-quarters of a mile away from the sprawling housing complex.

“It’s very hard for people in there — it’s like a maze in there,” said Ernestine McKayle, 87, who uses a walker and said it was difficult to get to her new polling location at P.S. 13. “I see why the people were raising so much hell.”

Meanwhile, at two polling sites in Sunset Park, workers weren't able to activate ballot scanners until about a half hour after the polls had opened citywide, a site coordinator said. 

Keys to activate the scanners at the two locations — P.S. 506 and I.S. 136 — had mistakenly been swapped, leading to delays for an unknown number of voters, coordinator Delores Meades explained.

“This was a big hiccup,” said the Staten Island resident, who's worked the polls for more than three decades. “I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.”

A spokeswoman for the BOE said the agency hadn't received any complaints about the keys, noting that they are universal for the ballot scanners.

She didn't immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday afternoon about the other issues at polling sites.