An untold number of primary voters are arriving at polling sites today only to find that their names are mysteriously missing from the voter rolls. Others have found that their registration has been quietly transferred to new election/assembly districts, or assigned to new parties without their knowledge. Attorneys with the NYCLU say they are currently receiving reports from numerous voters who are shocked to find their names missing from the voting rolls.
1. Request (and insist upon) an affidavit ballot, and cast it immediately on-site, AND
Report the incident to any or all of
a.The Election protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE
b.The NY AG’s Office, 800-771-7755 or Civil.email@example.com
c.Our office at 212-607-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
— NYCLU (@NYCLU) September 13, 2018
New York magazine writer Rebecca Traister tweeted about her voting difficulties on Thursday morning, noting that her name had been wiped from the rolls at the Brooklyn site where she'd voted four years running. She showed up around 8:20 a.m. and presented herself at the usual table, but the volunteers couldn't find her name. They checked and rechecked, she checked and rechecked—her name simply wasn't in the book. Pressed for time and trying to make a train, Traister filled out an affidavit ballot, which allows unlisted-but-eligible voters to belatedly cast their ballots. In this election, especially, that lag time matters.
"New York is a blue state and the votes that we cast ... don't feel consequential," Traister tells Gothamist, referring to the electoral college effect in presidential elections. "Today was a day when my votes were consequential."
"Every one of the races I voted in today are going to be really close races," she added. "Every single one of the races is going to be a race where, even if it's not close, the candidates I was voting for, they're the ones who need the votes."
Guess who wasn’t on the rolls this morning at the polling place I’ve voted for four years?
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) September 13, 2018
So folks, if Cynthia, Jumaane, Zephyr or Zellnor loses by a single vote tonight, just wait for the affidavit ballots to come in! (Seriously though what the actual fuck)
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) September 13, 2018
Others quickly chimed in on Twitter with similar accounts of being thwarted at the polls:
Three of us just in my line weren't on the voter rolls at my polling place (in Clinton Hill). This is the first affidavit ballot I've had to cast there. WTAF indeed.
— Kristen Richardson (@butwhyevernot) September 13, 2018
Happened to me too. https://t.co/fUWOJ31FJo
— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) September 13, 2018
Same for me! Very weird.
— Kathleen Kingsbury (@katiekings) September 13, 2018
Mayor Bill de Blasio's son Dante was also among those who were mysteriously unable to vote:
Mayor: “I heard from Dante...he had a voter card from the BOE...officials at his poll site couldn’t find his name.” He had to fill out an affidavit ballot. pic.twitter.com/xpBLzeR94h
— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) September 13, 2018
Lexi Georgiadis, a Greenpoint voter, arrived at her regular polling place on Thursday morning and went over to the same election/assembly district table she always does. "I made sure I was registered in advance," she tells Gothamist. "I checked that website [the New York City Board of Elections website] in advance." Still, she was told she wasn't listed—not under her first, last, or middle names. She checked with the information booth, where workers told her to try again at the same table. Ultimately, she filled out an affidavit ballot, but made a point of calling the Kings County Board of Elections. Officials there told her that, for some reason, she'd been listed under a different election/assembly district at the same site.
"Why didn’t my polling place know that? Why wasn’t there information on that?" she wonders. "My neighbors were behind me in line in the same building, and were able to vote at the 10/50 table as I have in the past. So it makes no sense why it would be different, and it makes no sense why the polling place wouldn’t know that I was listed under something else."
(Georgiadis says the BOE told her on Thursday afternoon that the confusion stemmed from a "typo" in her street address as listed in the system, and that it will be fixed for the November midterms.)
I have filed complaint w/@NYSBOE: was not in booklet under my listed Assembly District & no one @ polling place knew that my district changed (even though my neighbors in the exact same building successfully voted under the old one) !!! Was told this "happens often!"
— Lexi Georgiadis (@alexisgeorgia) September 13, 2018
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, Jalopnik deputy editor Michael Ballaban showed up at his usual polling place, only to discover that—unbeknownst to him—he'd been taken under the wing of another party entirely.
"They handed me a ballot with maybe one position open and like three names," Ballaban tells Gothamist. "I take it back and say, 'I think I’ve been given the wrong ballot: This only has three names. Where’s Cynthia Nixon, Zephyr Teachout, Jumaane Williams, all that?' And they were like, 'Oh no no, this is your ballot.'"
Apparently, Ballaban was listed as a Reform party voter. This surprised him, as the Democratic party has bombarded him with mailers since he switched over his registration years ago. Ballaban suspects that his former Independent affiliation somehow worked as a wrench in his plans this time around, although he experienced no registration-related problems while voting in the 2016 election.
So after years of being registered as a dirty dem, I get to the voting place today and am informed I am now registered as a member of the Reform Party. And that I can’t vote. WEIRD.
— Michael Ballaban (@Ballaban) September 13, 2018
A poll worker in Brooklyn's 20th district told a reporter with ProPublica’s Electionland project that they've been inundated with unusually high turnout, as well as "TONS" of people who've been mysteriously purged from the voter rolls. The worker, who requested anonymity, said:
“I’m working at a polling place in Brooklyn District 20 — we’ve got TONS of people filing affidavit ballots, way more than we anticipated or were told to expect. Lots of people saying they’ve been registered Democrats for 10, 20 years or more, no change of address, not near district boundaries. At the same time we also have shockingly high turnout. Who knows how it’ll be at the end of the day but by noon we were hitting ballot numbers most of the longtime poll workers weren’t expecting us to get to until evening.”
Asked whether she thought it was random or if it seems like poll books were missing wholesale, she said, "Seems random! And there’s no demographic consistency that I can tell — I’ve given affidavit ballots to older Latino men, young black women, young white people. We’re all cross-checking ED books and occasionally we find someone misfiled but there are enough flatly missing names that it stands out."
Today's issues call to mind the widespread voter disenfranchisement that marred the 2016 New York primary elections, when over 200,000 registered voters showed up at the polls to find themselves purged from the voter rolls by the city Board of Elections. The BOE said the purge was the result of a series of mistakes that occurred during an attempt to "clean up" the voter rolls. And after the election, the BOE discarded roughly 90,000 of 121,000 affidavit ballots cast by registered voters who workers couldn't find on the rolls.
After an investigation and a lawsuit from the Attorney General and Justice Department, the city Board of Elections agreed to an overhaul intended to "establish a complaint intake process where it records, tracks, investigates, resolves and responds to complaints about voter registration status submitted by voters."
]The Board of Elections has not yet returned our request for comment about today's irregularities, but we will update as we learn more.