Voters across New York City reported widespread problems with nonfunctioning ballot scanners during the midterm elections on Tuesday.
Wet weather, high turnout and two-page ballots were blamed for the scanner difficulties, which created long lines at polling sites throughout the boroughs.
“When you have higher turnout and you have more paper passing through the system, you’re going to have some issues . . . the weather and people having wet clothing and perhaps ballots getting wet is contributing to that,” Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of the city’s Board of Elections, told NY1.
“We really need everyone to stay as calm as they can and participate in the process,” Ryan had said before the polls closed at 9 p.m. “And we’ll do our job on our end.”
Keon Milton, a poll worker at the Ingersoll Community Center in Fort Greene, said four out of five scanners at the site broke down for roughly 45 minutes late Tuesday morning.
“I had never seen anything like this,” said Milton, who has worked at the site for six years. “You had this one scanner with so many people turning out. I was worried that they would turn away because of the waits. But the people I saw were patient and they stayed on line.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said bad weather is "no excuse" for the scanner issues and called for Ryan to resign.
"Voting should not be this difficult," he tweeted. "@BOENYC has had all year to prepare for this day. Bad weather and high turnout are no excuse when we have forecasts for both."
Johnson said his poll site, the LGBT Community Center in the West Village, was "packed" with residents facing 90-minute lines to vote.
A poll worker at IS 25 in Queens said two of four scanners were "jammed" due to wet ballots in the early afternoon.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also fielded reports of wet ballots clogging voting machines and said at least 22 poll sites in the borough had reported problems.
"I don’t know if the Board of Elections got the memo, but rain should not be a surprise," he said at a news conference held inside Ingersoll, where just two of the poll site’s five ballot scanners were functioning Tuesday afternoon.
Adams ravaged the Board of Elections for its management and criticized what he described as New York’s antiquated voting laws and the use of paper ballots.
“The entire (voting) process comes grinding to a halt because of a clogged machine,” he said. “That is unacceptable, and we cannot tolerate that.”
Susan Lerner, the executive director of the nonprofit Common Cause New York, expressed a similar sentiment earlier Tuesday, in that the problems illustrate "why New York so desperately needs early voting."
Reports of problems started early Tuesday and continued throughout the day.
“Complaints of only one of four scanners working at PS 208 in my district,” Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams said at about 8:20 a.m. on Twitter.
“@BOENYC only one scanner is on at my location in Long Island City. Two are ‘broken’. Probably 150-200 waiting to vote,” one voter wrote around 8:30 a.m.
“All four scanners not working at Vladeck Hall, one of the largest poll sites in the NW Bronx. @BOENYC @NewYorkStateAG,” another voter wrote shortly after 9 a.m.
Lerner worried that the scanner problems could discourage voters.
"The scanners are 10 years old," said Lerner, who visited poll sites in Brooklyn. "They served us well but this is a real strain . . . What we’re concerned about is that becoming a discouragement to people to turn out at these rates in the future."
The Board of Elections is an administrative body tied to the politics of the city. It’s made up of 10 commissioners. Both political parties recommend a commissioner from each borough and those candidates are then appointed by the City Council for a term of four years. The commissioners then appoint a bipartisan staff to oversee the daily activities of its offices.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on 1010WINS Tuesday afternoon that the "Board of Elections must be fundamentally changed" before the 2020 presidential election, adding that the board is "simply not a modern agency that knows how to provide this service."
On Twitter, the mayor promoted early voting as a policy to help Election Day move more smoothly.
"NYC deserves so much better," he tweeted.
New Yorkers who left work and headed to their polling stations Tuesday evening appeared to face similar issues. Scanners were still down at several problem sites after 5 p.m., with some voters waiting between 40 minutes and an hour to cast their ballots at sites like Ingersoll and P.S. 130 in Windsor Terrace.
With Ivan Pereira