Midtown Poll Watch: Voters Turned Away



Shaidur Rahman (far right) and friends stand outside Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in Midtown. Photo: Stephanie Ott.

Standing in front of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School on West 46 Street and Seventh Avenue, Shaidur Rahman and his friends huddled together, frustrated after being turned away from the polls.

“I googled and found you can vote anywhere,” said Rahman, 25, an investment banker. “Now they’re saying there are no more affidavit ballots.”

On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order allowing New Yorkers to vote at polling stations outside of their home district. Like many who learned of the decision, Rahman expected to cast his vote quickly in Midtown before heading home to Astoria, Queens. But after a security guard at the school’s front desk told the group there were no more ballots, his plan changed. The guard advised them to search the neighborhood for other polling places with affidavit ballots still in stock. Rahman walked out annoyed by the suggestion and ready to head home.

“They want us to just walk around like this is a scavenger hunt just to vote?” asked Rahman sarcastically. “No! I have things to do. They should have made it easier to vote.”

Joe Louis, an accountant working in Midtown, was also turned away from the high school and shared similar sentiments. “I think that’s unacceptable that they ran out of forms,” said the 37-year-old. “That’s the type of mistake that shouldn’t have happened.”

Voters lined up to enter polling room at Local 802 AFM. Photo: Stephanie Ott.

Louis and Rahman were just two of many New Yorkers unhappy with their voting experiences in Midtown this election. At Local 802 AFM—a headquarters of the American Federation of Musicians—on West 48 Street and Eighth Avenue, Natalie Mohler stood on line for two and half hours before casting her vote. “I was at another polling place with like six people,” said Mohler, a resident of the Murray Hill neighborhood in Midtown. “I go to the front and they said I have to come here.”

The 27-year-old registered nurse arrived at the Local 802 AFM building at 3 p.m. “I started on line at one end of the room and wrapped around four times before getting to the front of the line to vote,” said Mohler. Heading home to watch the results, she added, “I’m going to go and watch with my husband…and with multiple bottles of wine hopefully.”

Lines at Local 802 AFM. Photo: Stephanie Ott.

Midtown resident Steve Kesser had a different experience at the site, though. Kesser, 25, said he was able to vote in 15 minutes. “It was a convenient location for me,” said the financial services employee. “With the resources that were available, people working at the polling site were pretty responsive.”

As Kesser went home to watch the election results, Louis left Onassis High School and headed down West 46 Street to find another polling station with affidavit ballots available. “I’m going to 42 Street,” he said adjusting the bag on his shoulder. “I [left] work so I could vote. I’m going to walk until I find one.”