2010-09-17 / Top Stories

NYPIRG: Primaries Tell A ‘Sad Story’

Reports from around the city tell a sad story: Today’s election has been marred by late openings, poorlytrained and recruited polling clerks, long lines, missing poll books, a lack of privacy and problems with the new optical scan voting system. These have contributed to needless voter confusion and stress – in some cases disenfranchisement, says a spokesperson for NYPIRG – The New York Public Interest Group.

That spokesperson asked a number of questions about the voting on September 14.

“New Yorkers deserve to know why these problems happened, how widespread they were and what can be done to prevent them in future elections,” he said. “How and why brand new scanners fail to function properly on their first day? What can be done to recruit a stronger pool of poll workers? Was the management of the Board of Elections prepared and funded for the task of running the election? Will they re-occur in the November general election?”

“We’re not surprised at the reports of problems at poll sites. The introduction of a brand new voting system represents a sharp learning curve for both poll workers and voters. We believe that the new technology holds the promise to enfranchise voters, reduce lines and create an actual audit trail of New Yorker’s votes,” he added.

The spokesperson said that the city and state need to do more before the General Election to ensure that these problems are addressed.

He urged that:

The State Board of Elections and local boards across the state should compile and publicly release records of all reported machine problems and identify their origin as machine problems or due to poor poll worker training;

A statewide educational mailing to voters before the General Election describing how the new voting system works (the only mailing voters are required to receive went out in August);

An expansion of the pool of poll workers, we call on the new Governor and Mayor to offer comp time to nonemergency government workers willing to work the polls on primary day (they already get the general election off);

The Board of Elections should analyze if their decisions to turn-off undervote notifications to voters and use confusing overvote notices led to lost votes; and

The State and City comptrollers should audit the performance of new voting systems and poll worker training and staffing levels at poll sites.

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