Election Day Across NYC: Excitement, Worries and Problems at the Polls

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Adi Talwar

The morning rush at the Tracey Towers Polling station located near Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx.

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City Limits reporting staff of Jeanmarie Evelly, Sadef Ali Kully and Jarrett Murphy is proud to be working with reporters from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, students from the journalism program at Lehman College in the Bronx and interns from our own CLARIFY (City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative for Youth) program as we cover the important 2018 state and national elections. Updates to the day’s news from around New York will be added below.
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The Bronx, Staten Island

Multiple-Side Ballots Cause Some Snafus

Hannah Miller

Voters in line at M.S. 80 in the Bronx.

New Yorkers hitting polls on Tuesday may notice something a little different about their paper ballots this Election Day: they’re double-sided and two pages long.

That slight change made the voting process a little more complicated, as voters were required to turn their ballot over to ensure they marked both sides of each page, and then separate the two pages by tearing them apart along a perforated edge before scanning them.

“The multiple ballot has been a bit of a cautionary tale for some voters, especially the older voters, because it’s hard for them to tear without ripping the actual ballot themselves,” said Winsom R. Henriques, an election coordinator at P.S. 103 in Wakefield, where seven of eight scanning machines were down at one point Tuesday morning because of paper jams caused by the ballots being inserted incorrectly.

For over an hour, another polling site at M.S. 80 in the Bronx did not have a single working ballot scanner — a breakdown caused by people submitting their ballots to the scanner with one hand rather than two, causing the papers to line up incorrectly with the machine, a Board of Elections representative said.

“The ballot is not dropping into the box. When people put the ballot in with one hand, it jams,” said BOE worker Marcos Sierra, who arrived around 3:30 p.m. to fix the machines at the school.

At P.S. 19 in Woodlawn, two of the four scanners broke down just before the lunch rush; a technician arrived and fixed one of them about two hours later.

“We help the voters find the correct table, make sure they understand the new ballot,” said Stanley McDaniel, a poll coordinator at the school. “It should only take five minutes, but you’re gonna run into some troubles with the machines. It’s inevitable.”

And despite a city-run campaign reminding voters to “flip” their ballots, some didn’t realize they were supposed to until it was too late.

“I forgot, and it’s actually really embarrassing, my mom and aunt were talking about questions on the back of the ballot and I was just standing there like ‘What?'” said Victoria Oluwole, 22, who voted Susan E. Wagner High School on Staten Island. “I remember seeing the ‘flip the ballot’ phrase around and wondering what it meant but didn’t bother to look it up. That was my fault.”

But back in the Bronx, sisters Tiffany and Tyniece McKelvey said they had no trouble navigating the new ballot when they voted at their polling station on Walton Avenue near 170th Street: they had been briefed on its contents by the mayor himself. Bill de Blasio visited their church recently to talk over this year’s ballot questions, which include reducing maximum campaign donations, setting term limits for Community Board members and establishing a Mayoral Civic Engagement Commission.

When it came time to choose which candidates to vote for, Tyniece McKelvey, 25, said the choice was simple: “We just go straight Democrats.”

-Jazmin Goodwin, Hannah Miller, Adam McPartlan, Samantha Cruz and Dan Whateley


The Bronx

Some Voters Motivated by Anti-Trump Sentiment

His name wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, but at the polls in Tracey Towers, President Donald Trump is at the forefront of many voters’ minds: a number of people said opposing him was their main motivation in casting their midterm ballot.

“The main issue is getting the dysfunction out of the White House. He’s irrational, he’s crazy, he’s governing this country like a madman,” lifelong Tracey resident Julie Jones said of Trump. “We’re voting out of desperation.”

Jones was particularly concerned that Trump has picked housing and education leaders who don’t have experience with the huge systems they are operating.

“The White House is full of misfits that have no understanding of governing a country, of governing anything,” she said.

Another Tracey resident, Lisa Barry, who’d brought along her preteen daughter, summed up her voting priorities simply: “Healthcare and putting a check on doggone Trump.”

Retiree Yvonne McNeil is no fan of the president either.

“He’s robbing this country blind,” she said. “He’s gutting it even as he says he’s going to help us. He doesn’t love America like he’s supposed to. He just loves the almighty dollar.”

Shantal Riley

Co-op City resident Joanne Schwartz says she hopes Democrats will flip the U.S. House of Representatives. She scrawled “Never Trump” on her sneaker.

A similar anti-Trump sentiment was expressed by voters in Co-Op City. Joanne Schwartz lifted her pant leg to show off her sneaker, where the words “Never Trump” were scrawled across the heel.

“Hopefully, we’ll turn the House of Representatives to get Trump the hell out of there,” she said as she cast her vote at the Dreiser Loop polling site.

Sheila Moore, another Co-op City voter, criticized what she described as Trump’s misogynistic behavior, anti-immigration policies and cuts to public-service programs.

“We need to dump Trump,” she said. “Him and the whole Republican Congress.”

Co-op City seniors Diana Cruz and Marylin Baptiste took turns complaining about the president while walking to polls together. “I want Trump out,” said Cruz. “Because he’s divided our country. It’s terrible. This is not America.”

“We’re getting nothing from him,” echoed Baptiste. “He’s enriching the rich. I want him out.”

At Paul L. Dunbar Middle School in Morrisania, the president’s rhetoric was on Reverend Wallace Diamond’s mind as he watched rain pour down outside the polling station. He thinks race relations in America have deteriorated since Trump came to power two years ago.

“He split the country,” said Diamond, a retired cook who has lived in Morrisania for more than 50 years. “Racism is at an all-time high. America is not great no more.”

Antonio Villegas, 19, who voted Tuesday for the first time at the middle school, said he’s personally seen how the president’s words have changed the way people perceive Hispanics in America.

“People look at us differently,” he said. “People view me as a thief, as a lowlife, as someone who’s not getting an education. But that’s not the case at all.”

At Lehman College, 23-year-old sophomore Janiesha, who declined to give her last name, said she voted because she doesn’t like “how Trump and his Republicans are handling things.”

“We need more Democrats, or at least people to represent us who aren’t in the one percent,” she said.

 -Megan Conn, Shantal Riley, Gaspard Le Dem and Angela Villano


Brooklyn

Broken Scanners and Long Lines in Clinton Hill

Zaheer Bowen

Inside PS 56

Voters who turned up at P.S. 56 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, during the morning rush were greeted by lines out the door, caused by several broken scanner machines.

“I haven’t seen it this crowded since Obama was first on the ballot,” said local resident Bryn Bowen, 55.

Poll workers were instructing some voters waiting in line outside the school to come back later because of the downed machines.

“I suppose we shouldn’t complain because it’s a good thing people are coming out to vote,” said 53-year-old Manju Chatterjee.

-Zaheer Bowen


The Bronx

Busted Machines, Long Lines in University Heights

Two of the three polling machines went out of order for at least two hours at P.S. 15 on 2195 Andrews Ave., in University Heights, a Bronx polling site serving election districts 18 and 19 in the 86th Assembly District.

The machines malfunctioned at about 8:30 a.m. (until at least 10:30 when reporter left) due to tears, rips and bends in the ballot papers that jammed the machines, similar to how printers become clogged, a poll worker says.

The voting process was elongated because of the sole machine in operation, as voters were forced to wait on one long line that nearly took up the length of the school’s gymnasium.

-Jonathan Custodio


Queens

Smooth Sailing and Big Turnout in Sunnyside

Things were going smoothly at Queens of Angels Church in Sunnyside, Queens, on Tuesday morning, though the site was crowded, with poll workers telling City Limits that turnout was much greater than in previous elections.

“It’s much more crowded than usual,” said Gregory Lecakes, a polling coordinator who said voters started to stream in just as polls opened at 6 a.m. He was concerned about potentially running out of ballots, he said.

“I don’t see this stopping any time soon,” Lecakes added. “We haven’t been able to breathe.”

Lindsey Mchenry, 38, was among the voters who showed up at the church to cast her ballot in the morning. She left after seeing the crowds, but said she planned to return later to vote with her young daughter in tow.

“It’s my responsibility as a citizen,” she said.

Mchenry said she voted in favor of the three charter-revision questions included on the ballot Tuesday, including one that would lower campaign contribution limits for candidates in city elections.

“It’s important to keep big-donor money out of politics,” she said.

-Asha MacKay


The Bronx

Voting Machine Problems in Co-op City

Shantal Riley

Long lines and broken machines caused frustration at the Dreiser Loop polling site in the Bronx on Tuesday morning.

Voters were frustrated waiting in long lines at the Dreiser Loop polling site in Co-op City on Tuesday. The cause of the delay? At least two broken voting machines in Room 4.

A man wearing a dark jacket that had “Board of Elections” printed across the back was nose-first inside of voting machine that morning. He closed the top of the machine after about five minutes, then turned to a poll worker and said, “Tell them to tap the screen.”

“The machine broke down as I was waiting on line,” said Co-op City resident Mildred Dunmoore. “While he was fixing that one, another one broke down.”

The situation went downhill from there, she said. “People were complaining,” said Dunmoore. “They were arguing with the poll workers and the workers were arguing among themselves.”

“It took me an hour and ten minutes to vote,” another woman, who did not give her name, said angrily as she walked past Dunmoore. “Do you believe that?”

-Shantal Riley


Brooklyn

Pols Begin to Weigh In on Voting Issues

Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley of Brooklyn issued a statement on the problems at New York City poll sites on Tuesday: “The Board of Elections has had months to ensure that ballot scanners are operational for General Election Day. With the expected high turnout for today’s election they should have been prepared for every possible situation. Instead, they have once again shown their incompetence, which leaves it up to the legislature to ensure that voting in New York is made an easier process. It is imperative that the State Senate – regardless of who is in the majority – finally take up early voting next year so that New Yorkers are not kept from voting on Election Day when issues like scanner breakdowns arise.”

-Jarrett Murphy


Staten Island

Smooth But Busy at North Shore Polling Sites

Polling Sites in Great Kills and Stapleton were heavy with voters in the morning hours, and tapered out in the afternoon. Senior voters arrived in shared cabs, and while voting booths were still full by the afternoon, there were no longer lines like the site had seen in the morning.

“Just making sure no one slips,” said an election worker rushing to catch the dripping umbrella of a voter.

-Sadef Ali Kully


The Bronx

Delays as Machine Conks Out in Kingsbridge

Long lines and broken scanners plagued the polling site at The Plaza Rehab and Nursing Center in the Bronx. With only one scanner functioning, voters were soon packed into the Center’s dining area.

Several voters were wheelchair-bound residents of the Center and were being brought down in shifts by Center employees. With the backed-up voting lines, it was unclear if there would be enough time to bring everyone down for voting.

“This is taking longer this year—normally we’re in and out,” said one of the Center’s workers as she waited to bring her patient, who was in a wheelchair, into the voting area.

Poll workers advised those waiting to separate their ballot pages to make inserting them into the scanner easier and faster once they reached the front of the line.

One of the site coordinators, Michael Dister, said he was surprised to see so many people showing up to vote.

“This is crazy. It’s like the presidential election,” he said.

Some voters weren’t too bothered by the delays and took time to get to know those standing in line with them.

“We’re here making new friends,” said Anna, a voter. “Everyone’s very helpful.”

-Hannah Miller


The Bronx

Braving Chilly Rain and Shrugging Shoulders to Boost Ocasio-Cortez

Spencer Lee

Volunteer Jeff Rodriguez makes his closing argument.

The 6 trains rolled overhead at the Parkchester subway stop while Jeff Rodriguez attempted to attract voters’ attention by the station entrance below. His candidate of choice was expressed through what he was wearing and carrying – an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign T-shirt and an Ocasio-Cortez tote bag,

“Please vote,” he said to those passing by. “Last day to vote.”

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez receives no money from corporations,” he added.

Occasionally, someone would stop and have a quick chat with Rodriguez. But most walked by without acknowledgement as they tried to catch the subway.

Rodriguez continued chanting.

“You can’t complain if you don’t vote,” he said.

Originally from Parkchester, Ocasio-Cortez seems assured of victory, according to polls. But volunteers like Rodriguez were still out Tuesday morning trying to drum up support. Her campaign has been successful because of volunteer efforts like these, according to Rodriguez.

“People like me out there screaming at the top of their lungs, knocking on doors and online. That’s how she’s getting her name out,” Rodriguez said.

-Spencer Lee


The Bronx

Voting Early in Kingsbridge, Worried About the Country

Bronx voters hit the polls early at P.S. 207 in Kingsbridge Tuesday morning.

Pamela Martinez, 33, an ophthalmic technician, voted at 7:30 a.m. “I’m Democratic, so that’s where my vote went,” she said, noting larger-than-usual turnout. “I feel good. I saw a lot of people voting.”

Martinez is a little worried that voters’ choices won’t be able to make substantive enough change in the direction of the country. “I’m not too much into politics but the changes that I’m seeing are not positive and we need to change that for both myself and our future,” she said.

Jose Breton, 39, voted at 8:15 a.m.

“I’m not really driven by politics itself. I feel like voting is the right thing to do and if I can make a difference, why not?” he said. “Since I turned 18, I knew that it was my turn to contribute to society, but I mostly do it to enforce my right. The only thing that concerns me is the future of the immigration laws.”

Zoe Monique Cross, 33, a fashion editor who voted at 8:30 a.m., said she didn’t encounter any problems at the polling place. “I didn’t I have any problems voting, but I believe it’s because I live in a community where the majority are people of color. And, of course, I voted all Democrats. They’re the only ones that want to help.” Cross has been going to the polls since she was a child, she said. Her mother instilled in her the importance of voting.

Cross said this election felt higher stakes than usual. “My concern is that I feel like for this election there is a lot on the line. If Republicans take over completely, that would really,” she paused, tentative, then continued. “It would not be good.”

-Emmy Pena


The Bronx

Sisters Meet to Vote: ‘We Couldn’t Miss It’

Orla McCaffrey

Felicia and Penny Brown: Sisters, voters.

Sisters Felicia and Penny Brown made a plan to meet at P.S. 306 on Tuesday morning.

“We knew we couldn’t miss it,” Penny Brown, 62, said. “We need a change.”

They wore “I voted” stickers as they waited for the Bx36 on Tremont Avenue. A white Honda stopped in front of them and beeped.

“Oh hello, Angela,” Penny yelled to a woman inside the car.

“She knows everyone,” Felicia Brown, a retired home-health aide, said.

Residents of the neighborhood for 40 years, the Browns said affordable healthcare was their big issue.

“So many people are working and can’t afford to take care of themselves,” Felicia Brown, 64, said. “My daughter works full-time and she can’t pay for it.”

The Browns said the country has looked a lot different in the last few years.

“In the eight years Obama was in office, I never saw so much hatred,” Felicia Brown said. “I think it’s the worst.”

Felicia Brown said the polling place was the most crowded she’s ever seen it.

“There’s so much happening in the world, so people better be out here voting,” she said.

-Orla McCaffrey


The Bronx

All Signs Point to Vote

Hannah Miller

Signs along Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.

“Vote Here” signs lined almost all of Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Even with wind and rain, the paper signs stayed stuck to the green metal fence along the busy street.

“Do you know why these signs are here? I put them up,” said Anthony Harrell, a poll worker at the Kensington Building/Fordham Hill Complex voting site. He said that he wanted to make extra sure that people knew where to vote.

Harrell said the site saw a good turnout in the morning and that there hadn’t been any issues with lines or voting machines. He expected to see more voters in the late afternoon.

One of the site’s morning voters, William Kaspar, said voting is very important to him.

“If we don’t vote, then we don’t know what’s going on,” he said, adding that local crime is an issue he’s particularly concerned about.

Voter Louis Arroyo said he was more concerned about the country as a whole.

“You could write volumes on what Trump is doing,” he said.

Arroyo said that jobs and healthcare are also important to him.

“We have to concentrate on getting Medicare for all,” he said.

-Hannah Miller


The Bronx

Opening the polls in Castle Hill

Spencer Lee

Eric Groomer gets a Bronx voting site ready.

Eric Groomer is the first person some will see when they vote Tuesday. He stood by the door at the Glebe Avenue Senior Center when doors opened before sunrise. As accessibility clerk for the voting site, he greets voters, helps put up the signs and makes sure the entry area is safe. He has done this job on Election Day for over eight years, both in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Although Groomer had a small crowd to greet during first half hour, he expected that to change later. “Well, the day should be busy. Last time for primaries, not so much. This is a midterm you know.”

As the sun rose, more voters started arriving. Among them was Pedro Arroyo. Taxes were on his mind this re-election.

“All they want to do is keep taxing us to death,” he said.

Elsewhere, there was one jammed scanner early int the day at a Parkchester South voting site, according to one of the coordinators. However, she also reported that it was fixed quickly and everything was running smoothly by mid-morning.

-Spencer Lee

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