Voting machine breakdowns lead to long lines in NYC

November 6, 2018
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A polling site official shows a voter how to manually file a ballot after the electronic scanner malfunctioned Tuesday Nov. 6, 2018, in the Parkchester community of the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK (AP) — City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for the director of the city’s independent Board of Elections to resign Tuesday amid reports of malfunctioning ballot scanning machines and long lines at some polling stations.

“Voting should not be this difficult,” Johnson said in a tweet. “Bad weather and high turnout are no excuse when we have forecasts for both. Michael Ryan needs to resign and we need a full top to bottom review of what went wrong today.”

Speaking outside an elementary school in Brooklyn, Ryan, the Board of Elections executive director, blamed it partly on a day of heavy rain, telling reporters that it seemed as if scanners were jamming more often as damp ballots got fed into machines.

“The weather and people are having wet clothing and perhaps ballots getting wet is contributing to that,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Board of Elections didn’t respond to inquiries.

Hard numbers on the extent of the problems weren’t immediately available, but voters took to social media to post photos and videos of locations where scanners were having trouble reading ballots or had stopped working entirely, leading to long lines.

As of midafternoon, New York’s attorney general’s office said it had received 225 complaints.

Broken ballot scanners are leading to long lines at some polling sites in New York City. (Nov. 6)

Nikki Euell, a New York advertising producer, said most machines at her Brooklyn polling location had broken down.

“People are grumpy and frustrated but positive in a weird way, making jokes and talking to one another. I think it’s because we all are in the ‘no one will stop our vote today’ mood,” she said after two hours in line. “I’m annoyed and frustrated that no one has announced what the issue is, or if it’ll be fixed soon.”

At another Brooklyn polling station, Veronica Vela called the situation “chaotic.”

Half the scanners weren’t working. When she left two hours later, a poll worker announced none were working. Voters were told to put their completed ballots in an “emergency ballot box.”

“There are broken scanners everywhere in Brooklyn,” said Stefan Ringel, a spokesman for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

A Brooklyn City Councilman, Brad Lander, tweeted that his polling spot resembled “a mosh pit.”

The co-chair of the state election board, Douglas Kellner, also blamed wet weather for dampening ballots. He said scanners in New York were also jamming at a higher rate because voters had to feed a second page containing local ballot questions.

Voting problems are an Election Day ritual in New York City, dating back decades. The city has more than 1,200 polling locations. New York state does not allow early voting, meaning the Election Day crunch can be dramatic. During the 2016 presidential primaries, city elections officials were criticized over a botched attempt to remove inactive voters from registration rolls.

“There’s unfortunately a culture at the Board of Elections that we’ve seen for years and years that accepts these failures,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told 1010 WINS radio. “And it’s based on a really arcane structure where political bosses name the board members and this kind of failure somehow is tolerated.”

De Blasio acknowledged that Ryan “has tried to make some changes,” but the mayor said he agrees with the City Council speaker “that if he cannot provide a way to change things, there’s no reason for him to continue.”

Update hourly