By CYRIL JOSH BARKER, Amsterdam News Staff
While the new voting system for the general election was an improvement from the primaries, problems still arose for many voters who cast their ballots.
On Tuesday, voters again used the new way of casting their votes by using paper ballots, rather than lever machines. During the primaries, problems ranging from malfunctioning machines to improperly trained poll workers prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to call the process of “royal screw-up.”
In fact, things were so bad last time that it prompted the Board of Election to fire its executive director, George Gonzalez.
Reports indicate that officials from 311 said that they received 729 complaints about ballots and voting machines and 674 about poll sites, while 185 called to complain about poll workers. Approximately 4,266 people called looking for their polling site and 1,554 needed to get general election information.
A major complaint for several people was the small print on the ballots. In every voting booth, voters are given a two-sided magnifier to see the print. Voters also complained that pens were not provided inside voting booths.
Helen Sellers of the NAACP in Staten Island said that there were long lines and machines kept breaking down. Several senior citizens said they could not see the print on the ballots.
“Papers would jam in machines and voters would have to start all over again,” she said. “Because of the way the ballots were put together [in lots of 50 each], people struggled to tear off their ballot properly. There were some people walking away from the polls because they had too much trouble voting. You had people doing triple duty because we didn’t have enough poll workers.”
Viola Plummer, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Inez Barron, said that she received several complaints from people on Election Day. “We got about eight calls about irregularities,” she said. “Some of the machines had paper jams and they were out of commission for one to two hours.”
Another complaint, Plummer said, was that voters were told that they could not split their votes, meaning that they could only vote for one political party and not two different ones. Voters also complained about the lack of privacy in their booths.
The Board of Elections did not return calls about the new voting system and policies at press time.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly pleased with the outcome of the general election and the fewer complaints. Reports indicate that he said the system is here to stay and New Yorkers have to work with it.