Midterm Election Polling Site Problems, Calls for Reform

NEW YORK—Outside the Brooklyn Board of Elections, on Nov. 7, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams called for a fundamental reform of New York’s polling system after problems arose at polling sites on midterm election day.

Issues included delayed poll site openings, long waiting lines, optical scanners breaking down, and some locations only having one working machine, prompting Adams to propose a five-point plan to remedy the situation.

“We saw the American dream turn into a nightmare, when countless number[s] of people stood on lines for long period of time, and were unable to get inside one, their voting location; and two, once they got there, they were unable to actually see their vote count,” said Adams.

One of the situations that arose was paper jams and having to call in a service technician to fix the problem due to poll workers being unable to fix it themselves.

“If that is not a ‘duh’ moment, I don’t know what is,” said Adams.

Holding up a copy of a VHS and cassette tape, Adams exclaimed his disdain for what took place on midterm election day.

Brooklyn Museum polling station in New York City midterm election
Voters cast their ballot in the midterm election at the Brooklyn Museum polling station in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 6, 2018. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

“This is where we are, in our electoral process,” said Adams, “This is where we are in technology. We are still using antiquated methods, not only in the technology of the machines, but the technology of the mindset of people who are responsible of taking us to the next level.”

His five point plan consists of the following:

1. An immediate investigation on city and state levels to determine responsibility for failure.
2. Expansion of the poll worker and a coordinated trainer to incorporate basic scanner maintenance and repairs.
3. Early Voting to join the 37 other states that have it.
4. Convening technology innovators to test additional solutions for voting modernization.
5. Stakeholder commitment to structure reform.

‘Broken Record, Broken System’

According to Adams, 49 locations experienced serious problems, and that after analysis it will likely be over 100. Some people, like City Council member Corey Johnson, are calling for Board of Election director Mike Ryan to resign. Johnson tweeted: “Michael Ryan should resign & we should begin a top to bottom review of how this happened. It’s time for new leadership at BOE.”

“[O]ther institutions rehearse before the opening day. This institution, seems to believe that the rehearsal is the opening day. That’s the wrong mindset we continue election after election. We can’t continue to sing the same song of a broken record, in a broken system.”

Adams expressed the outcome would be determined after analysis, who should stay and who should go. However, he said that history has shown it usually starts at the top. He stated investigation needs to be done in order to ensure problems don’t repeat themselves even if leadership is replaced.

“It is clearly an indictment on the leadership at the board of election,” he said. “Failure of vision, to fully see how do we move this system forward so we all can participate in the process.”