The primary results came in quick and fast on Tuesday night, securing decisive victories for one particularly notorious native New Yorker, and a former New York politician whose fondness of the word "hometown" is up for debate. But the steadier stream of news on primary day—gathered at polling stations from East Harlem to Windsor Terrace; at the Brooklyn Board of Elections Office and over social media—was the indignation of would-be voters unable to cast their ballots, or appeased with an affidavit.
The BOE assured concerned voters on Monday that it had the staffing to process all affidavit votes, but some voters we spoke to expressed concern that the form was lengthy and left room for error. "I don't trust that it's not going to be thrown out because I might have made a mistake [filling it out],” said Leo Roth, 32, a Windsor Terrace Democrat.
Fresh off the news that tens of thousands of Brooklynites had been purged from the voter rolls—and without a satisfactory explanation from the Board of Elections—voters also reported that their polling sites opened hours late, or lacked functional ballot scanners, or couldn't account for voters with last names starting with letters N-Z.
A state voter complaint hotline got 562 phone calls and 140 emails between 6 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., according to the News. That's more than four times the number of complaints received in 2012. By the late afternoon, Comptroller Scott Stringer had announced plans to audit the Board of Elections, demanding details on poll worker training and explanations for malfunctioning equipment. Mayor de Blasio quickly endorsed the decision, calling on the BOE to reverse the purge and instate major reforms.
"We are deeply disturbed by what we're hearing from polling places across the state," said the Bernie Sanders campaign in a statement. "From long lines and dramatic understaffing to longtime voters being forced to cast affidavit ballots and thousands of registered New Yorkers being dropped from the rolls, what's happening today is a disgrace."
Many Sanders supports were already smarting on Tuesday, as last-ditch efforts to open the primary to independent voters were dismissed. "We need to be making it easier for people to vote, not inventing arbitrary obstacles—and today’s shameful demonstration must underline the urgent importance of fixing voting laws across the country," the Sanders campaign added.
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) April 19, 2016
Michael Ryan, executive director of the city's BOE, insisted throughout the day that the voter complaints were "what we typically see during elections," adding that, "I bristle at the suggestion that some folks might be making that there are widespread problems."
Here's our breakdown of some of the most common issues from yesterday—and a few extreme outliers—in no particular order:
- The BOE polling site coordinator for I.S. 222 in Jackson Heights, Jose Ruiz, told us early in the day that hundreds of registered voters had showed up to find out that their names were not on the voter rolls. "I'd say 30% are not registered, even though they thought they were," he said (those voters were administered provisional ballots).
- Brenda Bush Johannesen told us she arrived at PS 69 in Sunset Park around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and was told that the machines had been delivered with no Democratic ballots loaded in them. When she checked back at 5:00 p.m., there were still no ballots. She was instructed to fill out an affidavit.
- This Bronx man says he was tossed off the voter list because his name was too similar to another voter in the borough. "They [the BOE] told me I shared the same initials as a voter in the Bronx, it confused both registrations and I had become de-registered," he told DNAInfo. After two hours at the BOE office in Queens, he secured a court order allowing him to vote.
- This Queens woman contested her Republican registration status, insisting that she registered as a Democrat in 2004. When she arrived at the Queens County Board of Elections, her request for a court order was denied. A closer look at her 2004 registration revealed that her signature had been forged next to the box checked Republican. The judge's decision was ultimately reversed.
- The BOE staff for P.S. 073 on MacDougal street in Bed-Stuy was locked out until 7:45 a.m., almost two hours after the polls were supposed to open. The same thing happened at the Atlantic Terminal Senior Citizens Center on Carlton Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, and some voters reportedly gave up and left.
- Voters at Riverbend Coop at 2301 5th Avenue in Harlem and Bishop Ford School in Windsor Terrace found that their polling sites lacked voter books for last names starting with letters between N and Z. They were told to check back latter or fill out affidavit. The State BOE said the affidavits would "likely be counted," but didn't have an explanation for the phenomenon, referring us to the City BOE. The City BOE didn't respond to a request for comment.
- Announcing his audit on Tuesday, Comptroller Stringer sited numerous reports of understaffing at polling sites. Dee King, the poll site coordinator at Bayard Rustin Educational Complex in Chelsea, told reporters she was too busy to discuss voter turnout. "I'm sorry, but a bunch of people who were supposed to be working here never showed up," she said.
- The Brooklyn Board of Elections saw a "nonstop" stream of voters on Tuesday, making the case that their registration had been unjustly dropped or altered. "I never had this problem in all my years of voting, and I'm a consistent voter," said Thomas Williams, a seasonal Board of Elections worker. Earlier this year, the agency sent a letter to Williams to confirm his Flatbush address, but left off his apartment number. The postal service returned the notice as undeliverable, and the Board changed Williams's registration to inactive (a judge ultimately approved his right to vote on Tuesday).
- At P.S. 216 in Gravesend, all of the ballot scanners were down by mid-morning, around 11:00 a.m. "Both our scanners are down—it's horrible, we should have had four," one BOE worker told disgruntled voters. People were instructed to fill out their ballots and leave them behind to be fed into a scanner, eventually.
- At P.S. 154 in Harlem, multiple registered voters told reporters that they weren't on the list. Asked why, site coordinator Deidre Rock said, "I have no idea. It's just a one day job for me. I have no control over what's in the book."