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Election Day 2000 In New York City

From the Upper West Side to Boerum Hill, voters encountered confusion and long lines at their polling stations mostly caused by broken voting-booths. Election officers either had to rely on fewer booths or distribute paper ballots for voting. This confusion might indicate record voter turn-out or fundamental problems with our voting process; or a little of both. It definitely angered some voters and inconvenienced many others.

One voter said she arrived at her station uptown and the line was literally around the block. In Boerum Hill Michael Rubin, managing editor for a consumer business magazine, arrived at his polling station to discover two of the three booths broken. Election officers directed all voters through one booth, causing long delays and sending many voters away without voting before getting to work.

Ves Pitts, a photographer living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, entered the L-train platform at Lorimer Street thoroughly disgusted. He had just left the polling station for the 66th and 68th districts at the Community Center on the corner of Ainslie Street and Manhattan Avenue. He said, "The two voting machines were broken. I was unable to vote. No one was helpful. They were trying to give everyone paper ballots but didn't even know what district anyone was in. I just left. I'll try to come back and vote after work."

In one extreme case a polling station allegedly had been burned in a fire last night. Dariuz Tracz, a new U.S. citizen this year, emigrated from Poland to the United States more than ten years ago. This is the first election in which he voted. He walked to his polling station and discovered that it had been burned. He walked to two more before he could vote. He took all of this in stride. "I know my one vote may not matter, but even though I had to walk many blocks, voting gave me a nice feeling," Tracz said.

I was unable to obtain a comment from the Brooklyn Board of Elections explaining what may have caused the various voting melees. Their phone lines were busy every time I called. Obviously I was not the only person with questions for them.

Some voters alleged conspiracy and foul-play were the reasons for broken voting booths, surly election-officers and disinterested police officers, as well as the chaotic distribution of paper ballots among other offences. Others maintain that though the obstacles encountered today might seem extraordinary, they are simply just part of enacting democracy on as large a scale as we do in the United States. Heather Bucha, a writer and actress living on the Lower East Side, said positively, "Voting is never a waste of time, it's a privilege."

Voting is more than a privilege; it's a right guaranteed by law. When this right is disrupted by mechanical failures and impolite election officers, voters have a very good reason to be angry and suspicious.

John Coletti, a Web site designer living in Greenpoint, had one of the most outrageous experiences today. He arrived at his polling station at P.S. 34 131 Norman Avenue in Greenpoint finding that all of the booths were broken and election officers were handing out paper ballots. After waiting in line for one whole hour the officers ran out of paper ballots. An election officer announced that someone was going downtown to get more ballots. Which caused more than 80% of the line to leave.

He claims that an election supervisor yelled at a voter who offered instructions on how to properly handle the paper ballots. The remaining voters in line asked the supervisor for her name. She refused to give her name. "The people of my neighborhood were failed by democracy today," said Coletti.
-- For the Independent Media Center, November 7, 2000