At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg says he's received "disturbing" reports about polling places opening two to four hours late this morning, leaving many voters unable to participate in our glorious new experiment with participatory democracy through technology. Calling the situation a "royal screw-up," the mayor said:
We’ve also got reports of broken and missing scanners, emergency ballots and poor customer service. It means some voters waited for hours, and other voters may not have a chance to cast their ballots at all. There is a total absence of accountability for how the board performs on Election Day because the board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York. New Yorkers deserve better than this, and the time has come to fix it.
Yes, let's fix the voting system, now that we've paid over $70 million to fix the voting system! The city was simply unprepared to use the new optical scanning machines, operated by the Omaha-based company Election Systems and Software, says Neal Rosenstein at the New York Public Interest Research Group. In a statement, he reports that today's primary was "marred by late openings, poorly trained and recruited polling clerks. This contributed to needless voter confusion and stress—in some cases disenfranchisement." Even Senator Chuck Schumer was almost disenfranchised.
And in addition to the confusion caused by the new machines, there's also the confusion caused by old fashioned dirty tricks. Gustavo Rivera, who is challenging embattled Bronxchester Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. in the Bronx, has sent out a press release accusing the Espada camp of a wide range of illegalities. These include allegedly stationing security guards outside polling places who ask who people are voting for, and only allowing them in if they support Espada. We're sure this is all just part of some witch hunt orchestrated by the Prince of Darkness himself, but here are some of the allegations against Espada:
At 268 East 207th Street: Senator Pedro Espada was inside the polling location, talking to voters,handing out literature, and saying “vote for me” with his campaign workers.
At P.S. 33: Pedro G. Espada handed out literature for his father inside the poll site.
At Vladeck Hall, 74 Van Cortlandt Park: An Espada staffer on government payroll, Michael Gary, who is apparently a poll inspector, steered people to vote for Espada. Once voters are inside the poll site, Gary said, “I speak Spanish and I can help you vote.”
At Middle School 80: As soon as the police left for lunch, Espada volunteers started leafleting within
the poll site vicinity. Also, the person who is giving instruction for voters changed the instructions
from English to Spanish for an English-speaking voter so the voter could not understand. The
Spanish interpreter gave Espada volunteers high-fives and hugs as he walked out of the polling site.
At Fort Independence Community Center at 3350 Bailey Avenue: An Espada poll worker said to Rivera workers, “you better tell your people to behave because I’m likely to stab first.”
Fordham Hill Coop, 2440 Sedgwick Ave: Several canvassers said the apartment building security guards at the poll site have asked voters who they are voting for. Only Espada voters have been allowed into the building.
At P.S. 70, Eastburn Avenue and 173rd Street: There was no Spanish interpreter at the poll site. The
Espada poll watcher had a “poll workers” certificate and a sign that said, “I speak Spanish”. She was told to cease and desist.
P.S. 93 at 182 Washington Street: Espada’s workers set up a road block to stop traffic and are giving out literature.
At P.S. 57: Ruth T.P. Smith, one of the poll inspectors who is close friends with Espada, told people to vote for Espada inside the poll site.
At P.S. 23: An Espada worker wearing campaign paraphernalia inside the poll site, was asked to leave, but refused.