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What Happens To Your Ballot If The Machines Can't Scan It?

A scanner suffers death by civic duty.
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A scanner suffers death by civic duty. Jake Offenhartz/Gothamist

Welcome to NYC Election Day 2018, as double-XL, two-page megaballots completely bamboozle voters and workers alike at polling sites across the city.

If you clicked, I imagine you stand among the masses who spent a considerable chunk of the day waiting in line to do their civic duty, only to find that overburdened, aging ballot scanners could not handle the uncommonly high turnout. Perhaps you were handed your ballot while you queued outside, only to have it go soggy in the rain; perhaps you did not know that you needed to tear your monster ballot in half, along a perforated line, and attempted to feed the whole thing into the machine in one continuous stream; perhaps you did not manage to separate the halves *just so* and some stray paper detritus hanging off the end jammed up the gears.

However Election Day catastrophe befell you, I imagine you now, watching a frustrated poll worker use a ruler to jam your crumpled ballot into an overflowing slot at the base of a scanner (as reported by one Brooklyn tipster) and surreptitiously tapping the question, "What happens to my emergency ballot?" into your phone's web browser. Where do the ballots go when they die? Will yours get counted, or will it disintegrate into the ether, along with all your hopes and dreams of flipping the House?

Because lots of scanners seem to have been broken for more than an hour, many of you will have been plunged into emergency ballot mode as a matter of course, in line with Board of Elections protocol. In a city that seems never to escape an Election Day without a thousand million hiccups, and in a state with notoriously abysmal voting laws, it makes sense that you might be somewhat skeptical of the promise that your vote will be counted. Honestly, I cannot make any assurances as to what's going to happen today.

I can, however, tell you what's supposed to happen: When all the scanners go down, poll workers should open up the emergency ballot box on the broken machine/s and invite you to stash your ballot in there. Poll workers will either feed these into the ailing scanner when polls close *if* said scanner has been fixed, or they will bring those ballots to the electoral district tables for a manual tally. If you're checking in and emergency ballot protocol is activated, the workers at your table should mark the emergency box on the list and record the stub number.

But take heart, comrades: Look at this real footage of poll workers scanning your abandoned ballots at P.S. K753 in Clinton Hill, for the sake of our crumbling democracy. Sometimes the system works:

If you wound up with a wet ballot, or if you did a bad job tearing your ballot in half, please note that every voter is entitled to three ballots each—hand over the damaged goods to the poll workers at your table, who will mark it void and make a note of the interaction. Wet ballots won't scan, but we hear they will break a machine!

TL;DR: Theoretically, yes, the ballots you hand over to the BOE (even the ones you leave behind if you can't withstand the hours-long lines) should be scanned or hand-counted, eventually—even if they've been somewhat battered by a poll worker frantically packing your votes into the emergency slot. Hang in there, everyone!

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