City Council Speaker Calls for BOE Executive Director's Resignation Amid Widespread Voting Problems - NBC New York
Decision 2018

Decision 2018

The latest news on local, state and national midterm elections

City Council Speaker Calls for BOE Executive Director's Resignation Amid Widespread Voting Problems

The election marks the first nationwide voting since Russia targeted state election systems in the 2016 presidential race

WATCH: NYC Voters Frustrated by Broken Machines, Long Lines

The lines to vote this Election Day have been the longest in recent memory, according to so many voters waiting in the lines across New York City. The wait's been compounded by machine problems and the weather. Ida Siegal reports from Manhattan and John Chandler reports from Brooklyn.

(Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018)

What to Know

  • Complaints about problems at the polls are coming in across the tri-state area; we're tracking them in the interactive map above

  • They're broken out into five categories: scanners broken, no ballot sleeves, elevators out, ballot boxes broken and overcrowded

  • Are you having problems at the polls? We want to know about them. Email tips@nbcnewyork.com

Are you having a problem at the polls? We want to hear about it. 

Election Day got off to a rocky start for some across the tri-state area, with a number of voters reporting widespread issues at the polls — from broken scanners and missing names to huge lines and mass confusion. 

The widespread problems in New York City prompted City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to call for Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan's resignation.

"Bad weather and high turnout are no excuse when we have forecasts for both," Johnson wrote in a tweet. "Michael Ryan needs to resign and we need a full top to bottom review of what went wrong today."

Huge Problems at Polls for NYC Voters on Election DayHuge Problems at Polls for NYC Voters on Election Day

New York City voters turned out in large numbers but problems started almost as soon as the polls opened on Election Day. Pei-Sze Cheng reports from Brooklyn, and Rana Novini reports from the Bronx.

(Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018)

In Brooklyn, voters at a number of polling sites reported long lines and broken scanners that led some to abandon their ballots. 

Voters at P.S. 22 in Crown Heights described a scene of "complete chaos," with a line extending down the sidewalk outside the polling site and waits of more than an hour.

"ALL SCANNERS ARE BROKEN AT PS 22. They just announced that they will be collecting ballots in an emergency collection box to scan later," voter Barry Hott tweeted. "People are very skeptical. Totally unacceptable." 

Voter Jennifer Gaston told NBC 4 New York she and her daughter stood in line to vote for two hours.

"The lines were crazy and the staff was arguing," she said. "...[F]inally they told us that all of the machines were not working and that we should do an emergency ballot. What a mess." 

'Absolute Zoo': Voter Chaos at Tri-State Polling Booths'Absolute Zoo': Voter Chaos at Tri-State Polling Booths

At I.S. 746, one News 4 viewer said only one of 12 scanners was working as of 7:30 a.m. Lines were out the door at P.S. 29, where only three of five scanners were working, another voter said. More broken scanners plagued the Fort Hamilton Senior Center in Bay Ridge, where voters described huge lines and mass frustration. One voter in Sunset Park had to try three times to get a ballot counted; again, that voter said broken scanners were to blame. 

"We don't trust that our votes will be counted," said one man who called to report an issue at Brooklyn's St. Augustine, where he reported two of two scanners were down. 

"THIS IS HOW YOU DISCOURAGE VOTING," yelled another Brooklyn voter on Twitter.

Mayor de Blasio tweeted a strong message to frustrated voters early in the afternoon, saying, "Your voice matters."

"Please stay in line," the tweet continued. "And let's once and for all get true Board of Elections reforms like early voting so this never happens again. NYC deserves so much better." 

Federal and state officials have been working for nearly two years to shore up the nation's election infrastructure from cyberattacks by Russians or others seeking to disrupt the voting process. But many problems are closer to home.

In Harlem, one voter said the Wadleigh School location at West 114th Street was "completely disorganized" and had lines out the door. "People are upset!" that voter tweeted.

On the Upper West Side, at Manhattan School for Children on West 93rd Street, one voter said volunteers announced that two scanners were down around 8:15 a.m. As of around 9:30 a.m., five scanners were down, according to another voter.

At Frank McCourt High School on West 84th Street, poll workers were telling voters to "come back later," as scanners were broken and lines were several hours long, voter Chris Vitale told News 4. Vitale said she planned to return to the site to vote Tuesday evening.

And in Chelsea, voter Jeffrey Grossman said only one of three scanners was working at his polling location on West 23rd Street, leading to "long lines."

"The same thing happened in 2016," Grossman tweeted, adding that the city's Board of Elections and elected officials "need[ed] to do something about this." 

In the Bronx, meanwhile, the lock on the door at the Marble Hill Senior Citizens Center polling site had to be broken around 6 a.m. because no one had the keys for the site, according to Rochelle Roman-Mack, whose husband went there to vote.

Roman-Mack's husband was eventually able to cast his vote, but it took around an hour, she told NBC 4 New York.

Another Bronx voter on Twitter said several ballot boxes were broken at his polling site, P.S. 103 Hector Fontanez in Wakefield. 

"... I came to the polling site at 7:10 [a.m.] and finally voted at 9:15 [a.m.]," he tweeted at News 4.

And at the Bronx County Supreme Court House, only one out of the five scanners were working as of around 11:30 a.m., one Twitter user reported.

"The line is at least an hour long, and the coordinator at the site said they have been calling for a technician before 7 a.m. but no one has come," the user wrote. 

At P.S. 22 in Brooklyn, where voting problems were particularly acute Tuesday morning, the BOE's Ryan told reporters the rate of ballots getting jammed — leading to scanner issues — seemed to be higher this year than in past years. 

Ryan attributed the jams to high turnout, as well as a two-page ballot being used in every borough except Staten Island. 

NYC Ballots Next Month Will Have Unprecedented 2 PagesNYC Ballots Next Month Will Have Unprecedented 2 Pages

Next month's mid-term election will feature a first: a two-page ballot to accommodate the long list of candidates that voters will have to decide between. Melissa Russo has a preview.

(Published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018)

Tuesday's rainy weather was also a factor, he maintained, with damp coats and umbrellas wetting some ballots, making jams more likely. 

In a tweet, Johnson corroborated Ryan's explanation, but called for the issue to be avoided in the future. 

"Wet ballots — caused by people waiting in the rain — are causing scanners to malfunction at my poll site (208 W 13)," he tweeted. "This is a predictable problem we MUST fix and plan for next time!"

A spokeswoman for the BOE didn't immediately respond to request for comment.

In New Jersey, at least one voter shouted out Gov. Murphy on Twitter, wondering why a polling location had its doors locked when it should have been open. Still other voters described errant addresses — and missing keys. 

One Twitter user reported a wait of more than an hour and a half at a polling site at 111 Bright Street in Jersey City, with only two functional voting booths.

On Long Island, the Nassau County Board of Elections told one voter, whose name was missing from the registry, that the voter had moved out of the country. Not true, said the voter. 

And it's not just the tri-state area. Early voting leading up to Tuesday's midterm election revealed a wide variety of concerns with voting and registration systems around the country — from machines that changed voter selections to registration forms tossed out because of clerical errors.

Election officials and voting rights groups fear that voter confidence in the results could be undermined if such problems become even more widespread on Election Day, as millions of Americans head to the polls to decide pivotal races for Congress and governor.

Already there is concern that last-minute court rulings on voter ID requirements, the handling of absentee ballots and other issues in a handful of states will sow confusion among voters and poll workers.

"We expect poll workers will be overwhelmed, just as voters are overwhelmed, and there will be lots of provisional ballots," said Sara Henderson, head of Common Cause in Georgia, where voting-rights groups have been raising numerous concerns about election security and voter access.

The problems come amid a surge of interest, with registrations and early-voting turnout running well ahead of what is typically seen during a midterm election.

The election marks the first nationwide voting since Russia targeted state election systems in the 2016 presidential race. Federal, state and local officials have been working to make the nation's myriad election systems more secure. They have beefed up their cybersecurity protections and improved communications and intelligence-sharing.

Nationally, some 6,500 poll watchers are being deployed by a coalition of civil rights and voting advocacy groups to assist people who encounter problems at the polls. That is more than double the number sent to polling places in 2016, while the number of federal election monitors has declined.

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