Issues surrounding closed polls, discarded ballots emerge in Brooklyn | amNewYork

Issues surrounding closed polls, discarded ballots emerge in Brooklyn

Poll worker and Bay Ridge resident Claudia Vestunis helps voters sign in at Fort Hamilton High School Tuesday.
Paul Frangipane

By Kevin Duggan, Ben Verde, Lloyd Mitchell and Rose Adams

Even before the almost 1,200 polling sites around the Big Apple opened, reports emerged regarding issues at some locations.

One Cobble Hill politico reported that a voting site at the neighborhood’s Public School 29 didn’t open for more than an hour because the station’s coordinator and the Republican representative never showed up, so police refused to open the doors.

“@BOENYC just received word the coordinator is a no show at PS 29 & the police won’t open up the site,” tweeted area District Leader Jesse Pierce just before 6 am. “Can someone help here?? Ps 29 No coordinator for the site and the signs for poll district numbers is wrong. No Republican rep here so cops won’t open.”


Just after 8 am, Pierce posted an update saying the coordinator never showed, but that the site was open after monitors arrived and deputized two poll worker as coordinators.

At East Williamsburg’s Cooper Park public housing complex, voters and poll workers were locked out of the community center polling site at Kingsland Avenue for more than an hour after the 6 am opening time, apparently because the police officer assigned to the facility failed to unlock the building, according to a local politician.

“For my understanding, the police officer who was responsible for opening up didn’t realize he had to unlock another door to open up the site,” said local District Leader Kristina Naplatarski. “Folks were lining up from 5:30 am, and the site wasn’t open until after 7 am and BOE staff couldn’t set up until after it was open.”

The site had issues during the June primary too, when poll workers mistakenly only provided ballots for the presidential primary and not state legislative contests, until Naplatarski helped officials find a box with the right voting documents, The City reported at the time.

Although many Brooklynites chose to vote by mail to avoid gathering in-person at the polls, one Crown Heights resident said she had to travel to a polling site after BOE discarded her mail-in ballot on a technicality.

A local resident named Marissa said she got her absentee ballot on Oct. 3 and sent it out the next day, but BOE officials contacted her nearly one month later on Oct. 31 to tell her that her absentee ballot was invalid because it was not in the ballot envelope. Marissa, however, said she closely followed the instructions. 

“I put it in the envelope,” she told Brooklyn Paper.

The Brooklynite, who has been living with her father in Staten Island during the pandemic, decided to rent a car and drive across the Verrazzano Bridge to her Kings County polling site to cast her vote. Marissa — who rented the car because of the risk of catching COVID-19 on public transit — said the Board could be putting the lives of other voters at risk by invalidating their ballots on minor technicalities.

“I’m not high risk, but what if this is happening to somebody who’s elderly who might be worried about going to a polling place in person,” she said, adding that election officials could have at least alerted her of the problem sooner. “They had [the ballot] for 20-plus days and now you’re doing it Oct. 31. I [voted by mail] for the specific reason to not have to go to Crown Heights. It’s just unnecessary.”

The ballot hiccup is one of many hurdles BOE has faced this election season. In September, election officials had to re-mail thousands of absentee ballots after sending out mismatched ballot envelopes with strangers’ addresses on them, which the agency blamed on an upstate printing contractor.

This story first appeared on our sister site, brooklynpaper.com


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