Election Day got off to a rocky start Tuesday morning as a Brooklyn voting site failed to open on schedule because staff didn’t show up.
The fiasco, which was resolved after roughly 30 minutes, was one of many frustrations endured by New Yorkers around the city, who complained of long lines and malfunctioning scanners.
As the sun came up, voters who hoped to beat the long lines by casting their ballots early at P.S. 38 the Pacific School in Boerum Hill were left fuming when the site failed to open at 6 a.m. because no voting coordinator was present.
Sherri Donovan, 55, was among some 20 voters told they couldn’t vote because of the missing staffer. Voting machines had not been activated, she said.
“We are being stopped from exercising our democratic right,” Donovan said.
“This is unacceptable. We want to vote, it’s our right.”
By 6:25 a.m., the first ballot had been cast — and an extra-long line looped around the school building.
Attorney Sherri Donovan, second right, gives election workers a tough time after they failed to get started at 6 a.m. and the coordinator failed to show up at PS 38 in Brooklyn.
At the Carver Houses in East Harlem, two scanners were down for a half-hour starting at 10 a.m. to 10:30. Voters turned in emergency ballots if they had no luck with the machines.
Denise Davis, the site coordinator, said she didn’t see people getting so frustrated that they left without voting.
But Jeff Trainer, 70, said he’d received bad instructions on how to fill out the ballot.
“There are voting irregularities,” Trainer said as he left the site with his wife, Dina.
At P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights, a spokesman for City Councilman Dan Garodnick complained of a “two-hour debacle” on Twitter.
At the Bronx County Courthouse, one voter who used a walker said the accommodations at the Bronx County Courthouse were inadequate.
“It was a mess. Confusion, disarray,” Carmen Vega-Rivera, 62, said. “There was no space to squeeze through. How can you have handicapped people in the corridor?”
Pens and pencils were in short supply and Vega-Rivera’s name had been listed in the wrong district, she said. But nothing was going to stop her from voting, she said.
“Even I had to stay here until 9 at night, I was going to vote,” she said.
“But this is a problem. It deters people.”
Back at P.S. 38, Carolyn Casey, 55, had gripes about the chaos, but said it could have been worse.
“I feel like (the line) could have been better organized. The workers could have told everyone which line is which but the way it was set up confused everyone. It wasn’t the worse experience, (but) it could have been better,” said Casey, a 25-year resident of the neighborhood.
People vote at the Brooklyn Museum polling station.
(ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Others used the opportunity to say hello to neighbors.
“I was surprised there were so many people here. It was like a block party seeing all our neighbors together,” said Bill Shadrick, 69, a retiree who has lived in the neighborhood since 1984. “The wait wasn’t too bad. This is something we all need to do so the wait shouldn’t be a problem.”
City officials have expressed concern that the problem-plaugued Board of Elections would turn Tuesday’s historic election into a debacle.
As many as 126,000 voters were purged from voter lists during the April primary due to a clerk’s error, the BOE has said. The Board did not have an immediate comment on the voting problems in Boerum Hill.
Some voters were motivated to vote this year after skipping previous elections, citing the bitter campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
“This year I feel like they’ve done a good job of raising the stakes,” said Patrick Cheid, 27, an artist living in Jackson Heights who did not vote in 2008 or 2012. “They’ve done a really good job of making everybody terrified in a way I’ve never felt before.”
Debases Kanjilal, 62, a doctor, votes every year, but called this election “the most important vote I’ve ever made in my life.”
- Join the Conversation: