The beleaguered city Board of Elections frustrated some of the relatively few New Yorkers who chose to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary contests — with one voter calling the often bumbling body an “absolute embarrassment.”
Along with at least two Republicans being given the wrong party’s ballots, several Democrats and GOP members who participated in the races at 1,200 locations across the five boroughs were not able to enter them at 6 a.m., when they were scheduled to open.
Spencer Mestel, a freelance writer, told The Post on Tuesday afternoon that an elderly woman who used a walker was turned away in the wee hours because poll workers did not yet have a key to a Brooklyn balloting site.
“We showed up to the poll site in Brooklyn, we showed up at 5 a.m. … and there was no key,” he said. “The police officer on site didn’t have a key, the Board of Elections didn’t give [the site coordinator] a key, I watched her call the Board of Election multiple times … [but] no one helped us.”
Mestel, who has served as an election worker in the Big Apple since 2012, said the building’s superintendent unlocked the door and let workers and voters in at 7:30 a.m. — more than two hours after election workers first arrive and 90 minutes after voters were slated to be able to begin casting their ballots.
He explained that this wasn’t the first time a poll site he worked at launched late due to lack of access.
“This has happened at almost every site I’ve gone to. It’s never been this bad, but there’s almost always a problem getting a key,” said Mestel.
The Tuesday morning snafus were part of a pattern of BOE conduct, he said.
“We just continued calling people and no one helped us, but when the site is up and running, the district leader stops by … the Assembly district monitor stops by,” said the veteran election worker.
“When things are going well, people are happy to come visit, but when we needed help, nobody showed up, and I would say that is habitual to the board. That is almost always my experience with them.”
Further south in Brooklyn, early-rising voters were not able to register their preferences in the gubernatorial, lieutenant governor, and state Assembly races at the time they had planned to do so.
“It’s 6:30 AM on election day and my poll site at PS 15 in Red Hook is not open because @BOENYC has not brought them equipment and they don’t know how long it will be. Voters are getting turned away,” tweeted Molly Moser.
And at PS 22 in Crown Heights, early-rising New Yorkers weren’t able to vote before work due to a “technical emergency,” according to a photo shared on Twitter by activist and writer Stephen Lurie.
“45+ minutes after polls open, this is what’s outside where I’m supposed to vote,” he tweeted alongside a picture of a cardboard sign that read “technical emergency! PS 22 voting will open ASAP. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
“@BOENYC continues to be an absolute embarrassment,” he added.
“I left and came back in afternoon to vote and it was fine but I’m lucky to have that flexibility,” he told The Post Tuesday evening, noting that when he arrived at the poll site about 6:40 a.m., he saw two improvised signs posted and five people “milling around” while waiting to vote.
In an earlier follow-up post, he seethed, “Far poorer cities in far poorer countries regularly run efficient elections where everyone can vote.”
“The politicians and cronies of New York City and the state *choose* our local democracy to be this bad.”
In Queens, early birds were also turned away.
“Went to vote at 6:30 this a.m. in @JacksonHeights_. Poll workers told me to come back in 2 hours!” fumed Jonathan Ettinger in a tweet. “Apparently they don’t have the equipment yet.”
Councilman Shekar Krishnan (D- Queens) notified the BOE on social media that a voting site was moved from one street to another without the body’s website reflecting the relocation.
“This needs to be fixed before the evening rush,” he wrote.
Others also complained that their polling locations had been changed without the BOE informing them of the swap.
“Thanks @BOENYC for changing my polling place without notifying me. Turnout was already gonna be great today,” said Reed Dunlea in a sarcastic Twitter post.
In response, a BOE official insisted late Tuesday that Election Day had gone “very smoothly” and that all voters were sent information with the accurate poll sites listed.
“If a human error occurs, it’s regretful and, in large measure, we correct immediately,” said Vinny Ignizio, the board’s deputy executive director. “All told, we’ll run eight elections this year and this primary election has run very smoothly.”
Most recently, last year’s Democratic mayoral primary was thrown into a state of chaos when first-round lead holder, then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and others noted that preliminary results released in the afternoon showed 941,832 votes were cast for the Democratic mayoral nomination — a significant increase from the 799,827 ballots counted on primary day.
The BOE then issued a statement citing an “irregularity” before pulling down the vote tallies from its website. It later explained that the discrepancy was caused by accidentally including about 130,000 “test” results in the vote count.
Still, Adams shortly after came to the defense of the bungling board, saying during a TV appearance in July that its workers “did a great job” and that everyone “makes mistakes.”
But last year’s BOE performance, though particularly glaring, was not a complete anomaly.
The board admitted to violating election laws by purging 200,000 voters from its rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential primary. That year, 20 percent of trained poll workers didn’t show up to work on Election Day.
In November 2018, high election day humidity rendered its new, $56 million scanners inoperable.
And during the 2020 presidential primaries, the board disqualified 80,000 ballots, because officials weren’t ready to handle the increase in mailed votes cast due to in-person voting concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That year, the BOE bungled key components of its early voting program, including allocating ballot scanners without taking demand into consideration and stuffing so many voters into voting sites that it overwhelmed its system, The Post reported.
On Tuesday, a pair of New York City election sites told voters they didn’t have Republican ballots for New York’s primary race. One voter, Ed Gavin, 62, arrived at his Bronx polling site in Spuyten Duyvil around 8:15 a.m. to cast his vote for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino but after checking in with a poll worker, he was handed a Democratic ballot instead, he previously told The Post.
Ahead of Election Day, turnout in the Democratic and Republican primaries was anemic in the Big Apple during the first gubernatorial primary since early voting began in New York, according to BOE figures.
Just 87,000 of the 3.6 million registered Democrats and Republicans cast ballots during the nine days of early voting — just 2.4 percent, the board’s data shows.
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks