New Yorkers Have No `Major' Complaints on Voting After Primary `Screw-Up'

New York City voters have had no “major” complaints over casting ballots in state general elections today, a contrast to disruptions in the September primaries that Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a “royal screw- up.”

“We’ve had a handful of complaints, but nothing major,” Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman in New York for State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, said in a telephone interview. The comptroller’s office is monitoring voting through a telephone help line, he said.

In the primary election Sept. 14, some polls opened as much as four hours late as workers grappled with new electronic voting machines. George Gonzalez, executive director of the city’s Board of Elections, was dismissed last week after being criticized for mishandling the primary.

At the 92nd Street Y polling site on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, workers struggled to set up ballot machines but were able to open on time, said Priscilla McCrorey, 47, the station coordinator. Poll employees received “only one day of training, as far back as September,” on how to use the system, she said.

“The machines now are more work for the poll station and less work for the voters,” McCrorey said. “Still, I expected it to be worse.”

Paper Ballots

The new machines, mandated by Congress after the disputed 2000 presidential election, require voters to fill in an oval next to their candidate’s name on a paper ballot, which is fed through a scanner. The machines create a permanent record that can be used in a recount.

Peter Romano, 83, complained after voting at the 92nd Street Y that the print on the ballots was too small.

“How am I supposed to know who I’m voting for if I can’t read the damn thing?” said Romano, a retired New York Daily News production employee. “Who knows if I filled in the right bubble?”

Another voter, Jay Lefkowitz, 47, said the frenzy at the polls had calmed down since the primaries.

“The atmosphere then was more frenetic,” said Lefkowitz, an attorney and adjunct professor at the Columbia Law School. “Today, things went very well.”

Lack of Privacy

DiNapoli’s office released two reports in October detailing problems that occurred in the primaries. Deficiencies included late poll-site openings, lack of privacy, machine malfunctions, difficulty reading ballots and insufficient poll-worker training, he said in a news release at the time.

Some voters still aren’t being given enough privacy, said Neal Rosenstein, project coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which is monitoring polling places.

“These problems are scattered all over the city,” he said. At Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, “Three of 10 voters weren’t offered a privacy sleeve, a manila folder that allows for concealing the ballot after it’s been marked so onlookers can’t see how one voted,” Rosenstein said.

Overall, “the general election is a clear improvement from primary day,” he said. “It seemed like the Board of Elections learned its lessons well.”

Mayor Bloomberg today asked voters to register complaints through the city’s 311 telephone help line or by using Twitter on the Internet. The Twitter feed -- #nycvotes -- had hundreds of postings, with complaints mainly about small type on the ballots.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ashley Lutz in New York at alutz8@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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