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Early problems at some NYC polling places

Associated Press   02 November 2004
NEW YORK (AP) ? Voters formed long lines at polling places around the city on a mild and sunny Tuesday, only to be frustrated by late openings, broken down machines and insufficient or inadequately trained staff at some locations.
  As voters in the Brooklyn wait, one of two voting machines was stuck on the Republican side.   
By Richard Drew, AP 

At one Brooklyn location, a machine was locked on the Republican side, according to an online and phone hotline maintained by nonpartisan and liberal voting-rights activists. (Related story: As polls begin opening, experts brace for problems)

Problems were also reported at various polling places in Manhattan and Queens.

"We would hope this type of thing wouldn't happen," said Board of Elections spokesman Chris Riley. "But if it does, all we can do is send out our team to assess the situation."

"You have to remember, we are dealing with machines that are more than 42 years old," he added.

New York is among 24 states that successfully applied for waivers delaying a requirement to replace mechanical lever voting machines.

Riley said there was no way to gauge early voter turnout in the city.

At a polling place at East 23rd Street in Manhattan, where more than 100 people lined up in the street, the hotline recorded voter complaints of insufficient staff and poorly trained polling workers who were processing people too slowly. One machine there wasn't being used because there were not enough people to staff it, according to the hotline.

At the Maria Curie Junior High School in Queens, voters were given the option of voting by paper ballot or coming back later after the polling machine there went down.

At another location in Queens, the Queensborough Hill Library opened 20 minutes late and two voting machines there did not work. Voters complained that sample ballots were not displayed.

At a Brooklyn junior high school in the Stuyvesant Heights section, where about 25 people waited to vote as it opened, one of two voting machines was stuck on the Republican side.

"We have a couple of machine breakdowns, and we're dispatching teams to fix them, literally calling a technician as soon as we get a call," said Riley, adding that the city had a total of 75 technicians citywide to work on any voting machine problems. "We have technicians in all five boroughs. Until they are fixed, we're telling people they have a choice: to vote on an emergency paper ballot or to come back later."

He said he could not estimate how long it would take to fix a given machine.

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