Despite Light Turnout, Some Voting Irregularities (NY)
New York Times. September 15, 2009. By Sewell Chan
Original article: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/despite-light-turnout-some-voting-irregularities/
The scene at New York City’s 1,300-plus polling sites on Tuesday was far more sparse than last November, when the presidential election resulted in long lines, impatience and confusion. But nevertheless, a number of voting problems were reported around the city. The Board of Elections — an agency that is independent of the mayor and City Council and is largely under the influence of party officials in the five boroughs — has been repeatedly criticized for its handling of voting in the city.
The most troubling examples appeared to be a few voting booths that had the wrong ballot, at least temporarily.
At one polling site — Public School 165, at 234 West 109 Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue — several voters in one election district cast ballots in the wrong races until the mistake was discovered and the problem fixed.
The same problem occurred at a polling site on Marlborough Road, south of Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, according to one voter, James E. Keenan.
“When I entered the voting booth and noted the candidates for Democratic candidate for City Council in the 40th district, I did not see the names I expected,” Mr. Keenan wrote in an e-mail message to The Times.
Mr. Keenan had planned to vote in the Democratic primary for the 40th Council District, in which the incumbent, Mathieu Eugene, faces two challengers, Rock Hackshaw and L. Rickie Tulloch. Instead, he saw a ballot for candidates for the 45th Council District, where the incumbent, Kendall Stewart, faces five challengers.
Travis H. Combs, who lives near Mr. Keenan, encountered the same problem. He said he voted anyway — to make sure at least some of his votes would be counted — and said the Board of Elections was unhelpful when he complained.
“First, they said that there was nothing that they could do, since I already voted,” Mr. Combs told The Times in an e-mail message. “Basically, the response was tough luck, sorry, goodbye.”
I absolutely would not take no for an answer, so I suited up and hiked down to the Board of Elections. At that point, they sent someone to investigate. Sure enough, I was right, so the machine was pulled. I’m not sure that this problem would have been resolved by the Board of Elections, certainly not as quickly, if I had not demanded to see a judge.
Mr. Combs said he then went to State Supreme Court and obtained a judicial order granting his right to cast a proper ballot.
In other places in the city, the mechanical-lever voting machines, in use since 1962, broke down.
When Lynne Espy, a Manhattan resident, tried to vote at 317 East 50th Street, between First and Second Avenues, she found that she could vote for only one candidate — Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. — in the Democratic mayoral primary.
“You could only vote for Thompson since the levers for the other candidates wouldn’t move,” she wrote in an e-mail message to The Times. “For the other races, the levers all worked.”
Ms. Espy added:
I reported it and the woman in charge tested the machine and verified that you couldn’t vote for any mayoral candidate but Thompson using the machine. She let me complete a paper ballot, but they continued to use the defective machine. I have reported it to the Board of Elections, but I’m concerned how quickly they will respond to the problem.
Another voter, Nancy Doniger, also told The Times in an e-mail message that she experienced problems with the machines.
Ms. Doniger said she was forced to vote by paper ballot because the machine at her polling site — the Bishop Boardman Apartments, a home for the elderly in Park Slope, Brooklyn — was broken. Ms. Doniger lives in a City Council district in which five Democrats and two Republicans are competing for their respective parties’ nominations to replace Councilman Bill de Blasio, who is running for public advocate.
“Our race, for de Blasio’s City Council seat, has been very hotly debated in my neighborhood, so I was more concerned than usual about a broken machine at primary time,” Ms. Doniger wrote.
City Room has asked the Board of Elections for a response to these voting problems. We will post an as more information becomes available.