Midtown Poll Watch

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Polling station on 56th Street. Photo: Kamakshi Ayyar

High-Tech Problem, Low-Tech Answer

The polling station on West 56th Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues experienced a technical glitch at 7 a.m., causing temporary inconvenience to the volunteers and to voters who had been lined up outside before the doors opened at 6 a.m.

“The machines’ scanners went down for at least one hour,” said Cathy Gross, the door clerk at the station. “We had to use the emergency paper ballot while waiting for an engineer to come.”

She said that other sites, including some in Queens, experienced similar difficulties. The technical snag cause d a brief confusion among the voters, but the trained staff tackled the problem.

Poll Site Changes post-Sandy Rile Voters

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order this week that would allow New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote at any polling location, some voters showed up at their local polling spot only to find it closed.

Board of Elections (BOE) Information Clerk Michael Noonan stood outside a closed poll at 213 West 58th St. in a long coat and mittens—directing voters down the road to 860 11th Ave., where they could cast their ballots at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Some people got mad,” said Noonan. “[Hurricane] Sandy’s the main cause of this. I’d assume they have more resources at those other locations.”

Noonan said he showed up at 5 a.m. on West 33rd Street to get his location assignment from the BOE. He said elecion officials didn’t inform him and other information clerks about the reason for the poll closure and relocation. An advisory issued by the BOE stated that due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, they would be “temporarily relocating or combining some poll site locations across the five boroughs.”

“I think they just focused people on other bigger, larger groups,” said Noonan.

New York Police Department Officer Joe Robinson stood outside the West 58th Street location with Noonan to help point people down the road.

“Some officers are helping out inside voting facilities,” said Robinson. But as for standing outside a closed polling place in the cold, he said that as far as he knows, “I’m the only one doing this.”

Noonan said that at the closed poll’s busiest time, they redirected four to five people every 10 minutes.

At John Jay, a Public Safety Officerwhose bade identified him as, Y. Vargas, said he didn’t know exactly why the polling place on West 58th Street had been closed and more voters were sent his way.

“They just informed us we were receiving more people,” said Vargas.

A complete list of poll changes can be found here.

Crowd Crunch at CUNY Polling Place: 

Crowds lined up at the polling station at the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan this morning. Many voters relocated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, causing large crowds and confusion.

In a last minute decision on Monday evening, New York and New Jersey announced that voters could cast their ballots at any polling place in their respective states. One week after Hurricane Sandy, a large number of polling places are still flooded or without power.

“This is not my local polling station. I got an update from the New York Times yesterday evening that I would be able to vote anywhere, so I came here,” said a 33-year-old banker, originally from Korea, who did not want to give her name.

Another woman complained about a lack of organization. “There were about 200 people waiting in line, I waited for almost one hour to fill out my ballot,” said Rachelle Vail, a 50-year old fundraiser for Covenant House, a non-profit charity for homeless youth. “This is not well organized, there are too many people coming.”

One woman, accompanied by her five-year-old daughter, left the polling station without giving her vote, after having waited almost one hour in line. Another man left in a huff, irritated over a lack of organization and a huge line.

“This is the most crowded polling station I have ever seen,” said Scott Campbell, a 40-year old speech therapist.

CUNY Site Voters Bet on Obama

Not everyone at the polling station at CUNY Graduate Center Tuesday morning supported President Barack Obama, but the majority predicted his victory in the 2012 election.

“Though I voted for Mitt Romney, it’s pretty clear to me that Obama will win the election,” said Vincent Miller, an investment advisor, originally from Louisiana.

“I bet on Obama to win the election. Especially here in New York his victory is pretty clear,” said Scott Campbell, a 40-year old speech therapist.

Neither New Yorker said Hurricane Sandy gave Obama a final boost.

“Without Sandy, the race would have been closer. The storm gave Obama an additional advantage,” said a 42-year-old New York lawyer who chose not to give his name.

14th Street Line-up

Voters on 14th Street braved the cold to vote at a polling place between Sixth and Seventh avenues, where the line snaked around the corner and onto 15th Street.

Photo: Anna Cooperberg.

Westside Crowds

As Election Day ends, the polling places around the Port Authority are still crowded.

After 5:30pm, over 30 people waited in line at the polling site at Manhattan Plaza, on 43rd Street. Carol Demech, the clerk at this site, said there are about 3,500 voters registered here, most of them in their 50s and above, and nearly 99% of them voted. Adding in the affidavit ballots, the station had a very busy day.

The polling place at Covenant House was a different scene. The voters are mostly young. “C. C.”, a staff member who preferred not to provide a last name, said the majority of the 250 homeless teenagers at Covenant House had cast their votes there.

Raquel Grant, a staff member at the site, said there had been about 300 people in line at one time in the early afternoon. Because of the hurricane, this station also took in at least 200 affidavit votes. “I have to say, there are more people than the last time,” said Grant, referring to 2008. “There were about 500 more people came here to vote.”

At the west side waterfront, the large rental complex River Place, at the west end of 42nd Street, processed over 1,000 voters. There were still more than 60 people waiting in line at 7 p.m. “There are about a thousand apartments in this building, and the buildings around here have another thousand,” said Verna Williams, the polling place coordinator. She pointed at the two tables and said, “This table has done 600 voters, and that one also has done 600,” in addition to about 200 affidavit ballots.

The residents of more than 1000 apartments in River Place on the west end of West 42 Street made the polling station in this building crowded. Photo by Mei-Yu Liu.