Did you vote? Are every single one of your friends and relatives and freshman college roommates voting today? Does everyone in your field of vision have an "I VOTED" sticker emblazoned on their forehead at all times? If not, WHY NOT?

Today is the long-awaited midterm elections, and judging by the busy scenes reported at polling places around town, New Yorkers are, as Billy Eichner recently put it, horny to vote. They're ready to tear their ballots in half. Which appears to be causing some problems, among other things...

UPDATE 9 p.m.: As Election Day winds down, let's talk about the ballots. Many voters who weren't able to successfully scan their votes either stuffed them into the "emergency" boxes or left them with poll workers. Now the question is how those votes will be tallied.

Jennifer Morrell of the Democracy Project says that if the ballots can't be counted at the polling sites, they could be brought to a central location for counting. She explained that "chain of custody" of ballots is "absolutely critical." From the point they seal the container of the ballots, they should clearly be marked as to who touched them and whose custody they were in. If they are going to be transported, they should be taken by pairs of workers-ideally bipartisan pairs, one Dem, one GOP.

Along the way, the ballots also need to be "reconciled." They should be counted at the polling place and ensure that the number of ballots matches the number of people who voted, and when they arrive at their destination they should be counted again.

She said she’d be “very surprised” if NYC did not already have both of these things planned, and that they are “very standard” approaches for counties. The advantage of bringing the ballots to a central location is that it would have working machines and/or machines capable of high-capacity ballot-counting. A central location could be the borough offices of the BOE.

At this point, Valerie Vasquez of the NYC BOE says that all ballots will be counted at their polling places.

Joseph Lorenzo-Hall, Chief Technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, the BOE may not be using the high-capacity machines because they aren’t normally configured to identify ballots that have other accidental marks on them that may read as double voting.

According to Lorenzo-Halls, the DS200's in the polling places are configured to identify those ballots. And it gets more fun: If there are smudged ballots or ballots with little pen marks and they read as double votes, then the partisan monitors have to review each one and agree on the intent of the voter. If they’re truly too wet or smudged due to wetness to read, then they, the partisan monitors have to agree on the intent and actually fill out new ballots, paperclip them to the smudged ballots and then un-paper clip them and run them through the machine then paperclip them together again. Which might mean there could hanging chad-type situations going on and could delay the vote significantly.

UPDATE 8 p.m.: Back at Jacob Riis Settlement, the only poll site for Queensbridge Houses in Queens, the largest public housing development in the country, one of their four ballot scanners is still broken. That's an improvement over this morning, when two machines broke down after Gothamist visited earlier today .

At 7:40 p.m. there was a 15 minute wait to vote.

"This has never been like this for a midterm in terms of turnout," poll site coordinator, Margaret Johnson, told us. "We have close to 2,000 votes right now. Normally at this time of night we'd have a thousand."

UPDATE 6:50 p.m.:: Michael LaFazia tells us that the wait at P.S. 217 in Brooklyn was "was over an hour around 5 p.m., with the line more than doubling behind me. Two machines were working when I got there but by the time I left, only 1 was working about 50% of the time."

He observed ballots being "emptied from the machines. I saw the machines say some people’s votes weren’t counted and, when I left, ballots were being stuffed into the “emergency ballot” slot on the bottoms of the machines. Throughout, volunteers were in the phone with the Board of Elections saying things were reaching crises levels but seemed exasperated, getting no help."

According to LaFazia, one voter who received a "your vote was not counted" after feeding the ballot into the scanner was told "Don’t worry, we will count it later."

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: For everyone still waiting, there's free pizza!

UPDATE 6:15 p.m.: Meanwhile, back at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, there is still only one ballot scanner functioning out of four, and the wait time to use that lone scanner is an estimated hour-and-a-half.

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(Max Rivlin-Nadler / Gothamist)

Poll site coordinator Sheila Katzman says she never wants to go through this again. "Earlier today there were so many people it got dark in the gymnasium because of how full it was—it was chaotic," Katzman said. "There were 400 people in the room! This was my first time doing it and I won't come back."

The problem now, according to Katzman, is that the scanners themselves are becoming too filled with emergency ballots. They are waiting on new scanners to be delivered, but in the meantime there is just one for everyone.

Local resident Pamela Mapp, who has been voting at this polling place for 28 years, says she's never seen it like this. Mapp told us she's "been waiting here too long. When Obama was elected there was high turnout and a line but not because the machines weren't working."

Nevertheless, Mapp is willing to wait it out.

"My vote makes a difference," Mapp concluded. "I'm not leaving here no matter how long it takes. There's no time that will stop me from voting."

At P.S. 11 in Clinton Hill, where four ballot scanners were functioning late this afternoon, some voters still reported over two hour wait times.

"What’s the wait I have a lifetime to live; two hours out of that lifetime to do the right thing is not a problem," voter Kwame Banks said. "It’s a wake up call for America. My mother went to jail for the right to vote in Mississippi, so I’m gonna vote."

Polls in NYC are open until 9 p.m., and as long as you're inside the poll site before 9 p.m., you are entitled to vote.

Determined voter Scott Teplin wound up going to his polling site, P.S. 130 in Windsor Terrace, three times today before he finally voted. “It took under two hours the third time,” he told Gothamist. “It worked… I think.”

He first went around 9:15 a.m., but saw people leaving, “They were coming out frustrated and angry, saying all the scanners were broken.” Teplin decided to run an errand and came back at 10:30 a.m. and found the same thing.

When he went back at 3 p.m., he waited it out to cast his vote. “It sucked, but I’m glad I went back and even if it was two hours long, it was well worth it.” He added that his fellow voters were all “super cool and supportive—you get to know people” during that time.

By the time he left, “The line was really long, and getting longer and longer,” he recalled.


UPDATE 6:05 p.m.: For over an hour, M.S. 80 in the Bronx did not have a single working ballot scanner. A representative from the Board of Elections blamed the issue on people submitting their ballots to the scanner with one hand rather than two.

“All three machines are broken. All your votes will be casted [sic] tonight,” said site coordinator Rosario Matos to a long line of voters around 2:30 p.m. She said she would make sure all votes were counted.

Matos undid the yellow zip tie keeping the emergency ballot box shut under one of the scanners. She gave voters the choice of either waiting for a technician to fix the machines or submitting their votes to the emergency ballot box. All waiting voters chose the emergency ballot box.

Matos said there have been issues with the ballot scanners the entire day.

“This is the second time today,” she said. “It’s too much.”

Marcos Sierra, a representative from the Board of Elections, arrived around 3:30 p.m. to fix the machines.

“The ballot is not dropping into the box. When people put the ballot in with one hand, it jams.” he said. “Have it lined up with two hands.”

He demonstrated submitting the ballot with two hands to poll workers and advised them to show voters this technique.

One poll worker, Margolin Morales, expressed concern at having to guide voters this way since poll workers are supposed to provide limited advice. “We have senior voters who are having issues,” she said.

Sierra assured her that this was within the regulations of the Board of Elections. He fixed all three machines by 4 p.m.

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.:

Brit Liggett went to her polling station, P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, where she found a formidable line snaking through the gym. For roughly the next hour, she stood there waiting to cast her vote before the thinkable happened: The last scanner went down, and all hell broke loose.

Confused voters began flooding toward their district tables, wondering what to do. Poll workers, Liggett recalled, seemed to fly by the seat of their pants. They told the crowd to hand in their ballots for volunteers to void, and that they would be given provisional ballots to fill out instead. That sounded fishy to Liggett, so she called 1-866-OUR-VOTE, just to be sure.

"The woman on the phone listened … and was like, ‘Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,’" Liggett continued. "And then, ‘Oh no, that is not protocol." She instructed Liggett not to surrender her ballot, and to deposit it in the emergency ballot box. Unfortunately, though, poll workers had no idea where that was: When Liggett asked, the woman running the site reportedly told her, "I don’t know, I have to ask for it, I think it’s coming."

After about 15 minutes, the tide turned again, and swarms started flocking toward the scanners, depositing their ballots in the emergency slots. When she left, she estimates 75 to 100 people still stood at the tables. Voters themselves seemed to figure out that the emergency ballot box lives inside the scanner; the workers themselves were unprepared. The whole fiasco, Liggett added, was "bananas," and "really disheartening."

"In New York City to be confronted with a situation in which you actually are wondering whether or not your vote is going to get counted properly."

Here's a taste of that shitshow:

UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: At a poll site at Brooklyn Borough Hall, "tamper-proof" tape appears to have been peeled back by poll workers to gain access to ballots in jammed scanning machines, and then left open as voters fed their ballots into the machine.

A photo taken at 12:52 p.m. shows a voting machine with one of its scanner doors open, which would give voters possible access to election software.

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(Courtesy James H)

The concerned voter who took the photo says, he "found it that way when I went to scan my ballot at 12:45. Immediately let the poll worker know, but she didn't seem too concerned. Basically said, 'Oh... where is that key...' and started looking around. "

Joseph Lorenzo-Hall, the Chief Technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says is alarming.

“An open scanner door that should be locked and sealed with tamper-evident tape is a nightmare to anyone that has studied attacks against voting machines," Lorenzo-Hall told Gothamist. "More so, if the door is the one that protects the USB memory stick that stores the results, then it opens up the possibility of changing the results for that machine and even uploading malicious software that could attack other machines or the election management system (the system that accumulates results across all voting machines).

"I’m hoping here that this is just evidence of procedures not being followed correctly… for example, if the door was never fully locked it might pop open. However, we can’t assume the best; that machine should be immediately quarantined and all those ballots should be rescanned on a fresh tabulator.”

By just after four this afternoon, the scanner door had been closed and its tamper-proof tape simply smoothed over. This scanner was back in action along with the other scanners at the location.

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(Max Rivlin-Nadler / Gothamist)

Poll site coordinator Elizabeth Tretter told Gothamist that after voters consistently fed scanner machines ballots with both pages still attached to one another, ballots began to pile up inside the machine and had to be pushed down by poll workers—who needed to open the scanner door to access the ballots. When we arrived there around 4:30 p.m., she said that this has not been an issue for several hours now.

We've reached out to the Board of Elections for comment and will update if they respond.

UPDATE 3:49 p.m.: At P.S. K753 in Clinton Hill, poll site coordinator Filmore Gregory said that earlier today the line to vote had stretched a block away to Atlantic Avenue, because all two of the poll site's ballot scanners were down.

After a few hours, a Board of Elections technician came to fix the machines, Gregory said. In the meantime, voters left their ballots in a pile. Once the scanners were working again, poll workers went through them and began scanning ballots one by one until they were all counted.

See, the system works!

Update 2 p.m.: Michael Ryan, the Executive Director at the NYC Board of Elections, is blaming the long lines on high turnout, the new double-long perforated ballots, and the wet weather, which may be making some ballots slightly enlarged, thus jamming the scanners.

In response, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson urged Ryan to resign. "Every election is like Groundhog Day: long lines, polling site issues, huge problems," Johnson wrote in a tweet. "Now we’re blaming the weather? It’s unacceptable & unfair to voters. Michael Ryan should resign & we should begin a top to bottom review of how this happened. It’s time for new leadership at BOE."

Back over at St. Cecilia’s in Greenpoint, hundreds of voters have been waiting to cast their ballots for upwards of four hours, thanks to a series of ongoing scanner jams and unexpectedly high turnout. “I’m furious, we’re all furious,” said Hassam Asif. He added that he’s called the Board of Elections eight times since arriving this morning, and was hung up on multiple times.

“Why was there no preventative checking of the machines?” wondered Alisa Besher. “This is a huge election, I don’t understand how you’re not prepared. You had 2 years to figure out how these machines work. This can’t happen. It’s absolutely absurd.”

On the bright side, Besher tells Gothamist that she made several new friends while waiting on line, and eventually organized a celebratory wave in honor of someone else’s birthday. “I’ve been voting in New York for 14 years,” she added. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

UPDATE 1:05 p.m.: At the Brooklyn Public Library's central branch, voter Adam Silverman says the line to vote "is an hour and a half wait minimum. An hour to obtain the ballot, and 45+ (so far) for the single operational scanner (they have two, one isn't working). They've run out of ballot folders and are asking those waiting on line to scan to turn them over. Packed lines, not great organization."

Another voter named Linda who declined to provide her last name has lived in neighborhood since 1986; she tells us, "This is one of the busiest voting districts in Brooklyn. How could they not have [more] scanners? It's a huge problem [when people can't stay this long]. We've seen people walk out. Why can't someone scan for someone else [if they need to leave]? We've been here an hour and a half now."

A poll worker at the library said two out of four ballot scanners stopped working around 9:30 a.m. "A technician usually comes and straightens it out," the worker told Gothamist. "Some people might want to leave, you don't want people to leave because their job is to vote. And our job is to help them vote. So you don't want people frustrated. Everybody keeps saying it's important, so they're gonna try to wait it out. If this had been two elections ago, a lot of people would have just left. But this situation is dramatic."

Pointing to a jammed ballot scanner, the worker said no votes would be counted until the scanner got unstuck. "Some are concerned their votes won't get counted," the worker added. "I would be, too. That is a legitimate concern, I'm a little scared about that."

On the plus side, library employees are going around distributing books to read...

At P.S. 11 in Clinton Hill, voters were waiting up to two hours to have their ballots scanned.

"We only have four scanners but we're making it work with what we have," said poll site coordinator Marguerite Junious-Brooks, who said she has been working at the poll site for twenty-five years. She said the turnout was higher than it has been even for presidential elections.

But things were about to get worse — one of the scanners, which had been malfunctioning all day, finally gave out. Junious-Brooks said she had called the BOE hours ago to deal with it, but hadn't heard back. The line to scan ballots stretched longer.

Nia Bivens had tried to vote earlier in the day with her two young children in tow but left after seeing the line. She thought that maybe things would be moving faster when she came back in the middle of the day, but was sorely mistaken.

"I voted here two years ago and it was a breeze and I figured it was just the time of day, so I'll keep coming back until I get it," she told Gothamist. "I just don't have two hours to spend on a line. I'll come back in a couple of hours and see if its changed."

UPDATE 12:38 p.m.: And all ballot scanners are reportedly not working at the 7th Day Adventist church in Park Slope, where author and voter Julia Dahl says, "We're just leaving our ballots and trusting they'll be scanned."

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has decried the widespread malfunctions:

UPDATE 12:25 p.m.: Voter Ed Burnett tells us that only one in four ballot scanners are working St. Cecelia's church in Greenpoint, where another voter tells us the wait has been two hours. Here's a photo:

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St. Cecilia's in Greenpoint (Ed Burnett)

Another voter, Anne Sullivan, said, "It’s a shitshow which on one hand is amazing because the turnout but obviously they were not prepared for this. I have been on a massive line for 45 minutes and am not even half way through to the scanners. Issue seems to be that 3/4 scanners are down. A man near us on the line called the Board of Elections multiple times to ask them to come fix the machines and they hung up on him."

NY Attorney General Barbara Underwood tweeted this statement:

Underwood's spokesperson confirms that the top complaint received today pertains to broken ballot scanners:

“The machines are 10 years old, with a double ballot they have twice the workload, and it’s a high turnout year," says Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner. "It’s not surprising that unfortunately we’re seeing more breakdowns. The BOE makes up its own rules, then digs in its heels.”

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A malfunctioning ballot scanner in Windsor Terrace. (Jake Offenhartz / Gothamist)

UPDATE 12 p.m.: As of 10 a.m. this morning, all four scanning machines at P.S. 130 in Windsor Terrace were broken, forcing hundreds of voters to line up in the rain, in some cases for over an hour. Board of Elections employees supposedly repaired the machines, but by 11:45, one of them had crashed again. “I called the Board of Elections and they said they’d put me in the queue,” said poll coordinator Anita O’Brien.

“The wait is longer than usual,” said voter June Reich. “Which I think is maybe good? I don’t know."

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An NYPD officer at a poll site at P.S. 130 in Windsor Terrace. (Jake Offenhartz / Gothamist)

And here's the scene at P.S. 316 in Crown Heights, where malfunctioning ballot scanners are causing overcrowding and uncertainty.

UPDATE 11:21 a.m: Voter Matt Kane writes in to tell us he waited "over an hour to vote at 351 E 61st Street (Metro Council on Jewish Poverty). Workers were doing their best, but it's super crowded inside and 1 out of the 2 machines were broken. Seemed like more turnout than usual, but hard to tell given the shitshow that was the broken machines.

"They directed people to an 'Emergency Ballot' area who didn't want to wait the 10 minutes to scan once they'd filled out their ballot, but all it looked like was people putting it into the broken scanner. Pretty embarrassing for NYC BOE."

We've asked the Board of Elections about the widespread reports of malfunctioning ballot scanners, in an attempt to verify if there are more scanner problems than usual. We'll update when we know more. A spokesperson for the state Attorney General's office, which has been fielding complaints about voting problems, said they would have an update after 12 p.m.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: A poll worker at Christ Church in Bay Ridge says this is “by far” the most voters he’s ever seen at this site. “More than double the 2016 election,” he estimated, noting that there were nearly 50 people lined up at 6 a.m.

Adding to the wait times, there’s confusion over the double-sided, tear-off ballots, according to Laureve Blackstone, a labor lawyer and poll watcher with the New York State Democratic Lawyers Council. “If the perforation is torn, the ballot gets rejected and they have to fill out another,” she tells Gothamist. “It’s not rampant, but it’s been happening. It’s a pain. It adds another layer of figuring out what to do.”

UPDATE 10:55 a.m.: Voters at the Bronx County Supreme Court House are reporting that all scanning machines have stopped working this morning. Site coordinator Eladio Perez confirmed that the machines are out-of-service.

The polling site is in emergency mode, which means voters are placing their ballots in boxes below the scanning machines to be counted later.

“Apparently the scanners are jamming,” said Bronx voter, Anne Born. “It may be because when you tear off the two parts of the ballot, it has shards.”

The polling site’s election monitor says the issue has been reported to the Bronx Board of Elections and a technician is coming.

“Why isn’t someone here to make sure these machines are working properly?” wondered voter Erika Fajardo.

The polling site’s coordinator, Perez, says he guarantees the machines will be fixed and all votes will be scanned later.

The technical issue does not appear to be slowing down voting, according to voters leaving the courthouse. One voter said the process was actually simpler without the scanners.

UPDATE 10:35 a.m.: One scanner out of four was down at Jacob Riis Settlement, the only poll site for Queensbridge Houses in Queens, the largest public housing development in the country. The handicap accessible scanner was also broken as of 10:30 a.m.

In addition, poll site coordinator Margaret Johnson says, "There are a lot of names that are not on the voter rolls. We've had a father come with his son; the father was on the roll but the son was not, and it was because the son had not voted in the last couple of elections. When that happens we have them fill out affidavits."

Nevertheless, voters are persisting...


UPDATE 10:19 a.m.:And at a poll site at St. Anthony of Padua church in Greenpoint, midterm voters are coming in so hot the scanners are overheating:

UPDATE 10:00 a.m.: Broken ballot scanners have been causing a "chaotic situation" at P.S. 22 in Crown Heights this morning. Voter Nuri Weitzman tells us, "There is only ONE scanning machine working for the entire polling place... Lines for scanning are sneaking around the whole building and there’s no order to the line. They’ve run out of privacy folders and encouraging us to take our ballot, get on the scan line, and fill it out in line. Wait times are up to an hour and half or longer."

Voter Ali McKegney, 32, said that at first she "was excited, actually, to see the line... except now I'm finding out it's because of one working scanner. I thought it was people showing up. So I was initially excited, now I'm a little frustrated."

Voter Ebony Aryal, 32, said, "We've been in line for two hours. [I'm] frustrated! We have no idea if our votes are counted. Even the staff members are complaining, they don't understand why this is happening. This is voter suppression at its finest. We come in early, we wait in line to vote, and we don't even know if our vote is being counted."

Because of the malfunctioning scanning machines, voters were told to put their ballots into emergency ballot boxes to be scanned later.

"It's crazy unorganized inside, definitely outside of fire code," another frustrated voter told us. "And then if you wait in line all this time, you don't know if it's getting counted... all four scanning machines are broken. I'm not confident [my vote will be counted], we literally stuffed it into a box."

UPDATE 9:20 a.m.: In Sheepshead Bay, city-provided Russian and Arabic translators say they haven’t helped anyone yet, because the Board of Elections is forcing them to stand too far from the polling site. At 8:30 a.m., Common Cause Executive Director/election crusader Susan Lerner arrived with a tape measure, urging a poll site coordinator and police officer to allow the translators to move into a more visible location.

The officer refused to use the tape measure, and insisted that the translators were close enough. “This is an attitude you run into in North Carolina and Texas,” said Lerner. “We’re paying over 200 translators to stand outside in the rain, and most people don’t even know they’re there. That’s inexcusable.”

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(Jake Offenhartz / Gothamist)

As we reported yesterday, New York City's new husky double-wide Big Gulp ballots are so big they need to be torn in half along a perforated line before they can be fed into the scanning machines. WNYC's Jennifer Hsu reports that the poll site at Christ Church in Bay Ridge is experiencing scanning problems as a result of the necessary ballot tearing.

Higher-than-normal turnout is being reported at numerous poll sites this morning, including Jackson Heights, Crown Heights, the Lower East Side, the Upper West Side, and Morningside Heights, where at 8:30 a.m. voter Christine Braunstein said, "Normally my polling station at Red Oak Apartments is a ghost town. Not this morning. Lines already out the door."

And here's the heavy turnout at P.S. 199 on West 70th Street, shortly before 9 a.m.:

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OMG the line inside PS 199! #electionday

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At I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights, a poll site coordinator said approximately 60 people were already waiting on line to vote when the doors opened at 6 a.m., something the coordinator said he had never seen before in his six years working Election Days. "The scanners have been up and down all morning," said the coordinator, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to a reporter. "Mostly due to issues from the perforated ballots."

Some ballots were getting caught in the scanner because of improper tearing, he said. By 8 a.m., BOE technicians had responded to the poll site to fix the scanners twice, according to the poll site coordinator. One voter said they waited about 15 minutes to vote, which is longer than usual for a midterm election. The poll worker told Gothamist the turnout was more akin to a presidential election.

Voters with issues can contact AG Underwood's voting hotline at 800-771-7755 or via email at civil.rights@ag.ny.gov between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The hotline will be staffed by the AG's Civil Right’s Bureau.

Our friends at ProPublica's Electionland are also accepting tips on voting problems and experiences—text the word VOTE, VOTA (for Spanish) or 投票 (for Chinese) to 81380 (standard text message rates apply). On WhatsApp, aend the word VOTE, VOTA (for Spanish) or 投票 (for Chinese) to 1-850-909-8683. Or use Facebook messenger.

(You can also send harrowing tales to tips@gothamist.com)

Polls in NYC are open until 9 p.m. tonight. If you are inside your poll site before 9 p.m., you are entitled to vote. Find out where to vote here, and check back for updates here throughout the day.

Additional reporting by Max Rivlin-Nadler, Jake Offenhartz, Scott Heins, Claire Lampen, Jen Chung, Gwynne Hogan, Jim O'Grady, Hannah Miller, Rhyne Piggott, and Daniel Whateley.