Ah, the smell of democracy in the morning. A bit subtler this year—nothing appears to be burning just yet—but it's in the air nonetheless. The time has come to play your part in this exhilarating production we call municipal government.
Actually, thanks to the launch of early voting this year, it's been that time for about about a week. But if you're not one of the roughly 60,000 New Yorkers who took advantage of the opportunity, today is your last chance to vote. You have until 9 p.m. to do so. Let's get moving.
Wait, what am I voting for again?
For the second time in a year, New York City residents will be called to pick a public advocate—a soapbox with relatively little power, the occupant of which is also second-in-line to the mayor. This time around, Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams (D), who won the post in a special election in February, is facing Staten Island Councilmember Joe Borelli (R), who wants to abolish the office altogether. Williams is widely expected to win. Either way, you won't have to vote for a new public advocate for another four years (unless the public advocate runs for mayor, which...ah).
Residents of Queens will also have the chance to pick their next District Attorney. You'll recall that Queens Borough President Melinda Katz barely edged out Tiffany Caban in a wild primary contest earlier this year. Now Katz is going up against ex-cop and defense lawyer Joe Murray, who, fun fact, previously represented Elliot Spitzer's Russian mistress. He's running on the Republican line, despite being registered as a Democrat. Like Borelli, Murray faces long odds.
The real excitement this year happens on the back of the ballot, where all New Yorkers will have the chance to vote on five ballot questions—containing 19 proposals—that could drastically reshape the city's charter. This is some advanced-level democracy, so it's worth familiarizing yourself with the proposals before you walk into the booth.
In order to to weigh in on these far-reaching proposals, it's crucial that you flip your ballot. We've already heard from multiple angry New Yorkers who failed to do this. Do not be like them.
How are things going so far? [See UPDATES below]
Compared to last year's midterms mayhem, current conditions are looking pretty orderly, if a bit quiet. Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause-NY, has been monitoring poll sites since 6 a.m., and says she hasn't seen much in the way of major meltdowns so far. Not that things are perfect.
"As usual, we're hearing confusion regarding affidavit ballots," Lerner told Gothamist. "The message people need to know: do your best to cast a regular ballot, but don't leave without casting an affidavit ballot. Most importantly, you need to know you're in the right polling place. If you cast a ballot in the wrong polling place, it wont count." You can find your poll site here.
The other frustration is that some poll workers are, once again, asking voters for identification. Reminder: you do not need identification to vote in New York. The Board of Elections says they're looking into this.
What about that card I got sent in the mail? Do I need it?
Nope! That laminated card you should've received from the BOE by mail is intended to streamline the voting process, but it's not required to cast a vote.
As part of New York's foray into early voting, the BOE purchased 10,000 iPads, replacing the massive old manual ledgers that previously greeted voters once they entered a poll site. If you bring that card you received in the mail, the screens can scan your info immediately, allowing you to sign-in. Otherwise, you'll be prompted to enter your first and last name on the devices.
Gothamist publisher Jake Dobkin, who voted earlier today, said the cards are not worth the hassle: "It basically saves you the trouble of looking up the first three letters of your last name. One thing I don't get is that if it's all on a computer, why not just let anyone vote at any voting station wherever they want? Like you give your name, the computer looks you up, and then you vote -- dividing it up into hundreds of stations really seems to be unnecessary complexity now."
How are those iPads working out, anyway?
"They seem to be working extremely well," Lerner told Gothamist. "People are saying, 'I finally feel like I'm voting in the 21st century.'"
That said, there have been a few hiccups. According to Lissa Wolfe, a poll site coordinator at Farragut Community Center in DUMBO, the iPad dedicated to one district went down, as did the back-up. One person was forced to fill out an affidavit ballot.
"We are doing the best we can," said Wolfe. "We always have issues trying to get things ready to go...The new system is getting the bugs out."
Another tipster told us that he tried to vote at PS 245 in Ditmas Park this morning, but was told to return later because of "technical glitches" with the electronic voter confirmation.
Anything else screwed up?
There are reports of missing tables, animosity toward emotional support dogs, a Queens poll worker who has some thoughts about "those people." Another USB is sticking out of a scanner machine, as is apparently now tradition, and it wouldn't be election day in New York without at least one trash mountain.
But some say voting today was a breeze, even if it didn't feel particularly consequential. "It was quick, fast and easy," said 52-year-old Nadine Folke as she was walking out of her Lower East Side polling place. "But right now, I'm just waiting for the big one: the presidency. We're all waiting for that one."
We'd like to hear about your voting experience! Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on Twitter @Gothamist.
UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: Thousands of registered Libertarians have been misclassified as members of the Working Families Party. A spokesperson for the BOE, Valerie Vazquez, confirmed the error, which the agency say was caused by a "data mapping issue" (?) with the new poll iPads. The result is that all 3,106 registered Libertarians across New York City are showing up as members of the Working Families Party when they sign in to vote.
Ilya Schwartzburg, chair of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, called the city Board of Elections when he began hearing reports of the issue, but didn't get a response until he tweeted at the agency. While the BOE has assured him that the mistake will not impact party enrollment, the city's Libertarian contingent is understandably pissed.
UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: Even elected officials aren't immune from poll worker misinformation. Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa tells Gothamist/WNYC that she was trying to vote at PS366 in Washington Heights, when she got into a heated confrontation with a poll worker. He initially said he needed see her voter card, then claimed, "Well, if you don't have a card then you have to show me identification," according to the Upper Manhattan representative. The site supervisor eventually intervened, explaining that no poll worker should be asking for identification.
De La Rosa also said there were not enough Spanish translators at her polling site and a lack of training on the iPads.