Maloney, scanners register with voters in primary election

By Lincoln Anderson

For the first time in 18 years in Congress, Carolyn Maloney was tested in a Democratic primary election. She prevailed, handily beating political newcomer Reshma Saujani in the 14th District, with 81 percent of the vote to Saujani’s 19 percent.

Also put to the test in Tuesday’s primaries was the city’s new voting system, which has dispensed with the old-fashioned, lever-pull booths, replacing them with paper ballots. Some media reports said the new system was a disaster in parts of the city. But in the West Village, Greenwich Village and the East Village things seem to have gone pretty smoothly.

At P.S. 41 on W. 11th St., around 3:15 on Tuesday, poll-site coordinator Sandro Sherrod reported that everything was under control. The main race being the Democratic attorney general contest, which didn’t seem to energize voters, the turnout appeared to be very light.

Sherrod, IT director at N.Y.U. Medical School and a former vice president of Village Independent Democrats, has been the poll-site coordinator at P.S. 41 for the past five years.

“It’s going fairly well,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s been a bit of a learning curve since it’s a fairly new process for everyone involved. I think it’s a good run-up to the general election. There were some people who said they missed the old machines. A few people came just to see the new machines. They came to vote — but they seemed more interested in the scanners.”

Some voters opted to use an alternative marking system — the Ballot Marking Device — instead of the basic procedure of marking their paper ballots with special pens. Designed for use by people with a range of disability issues, the B.M.D. looks like a little gray tank, as opposed to the space-age-like tables for filling out the paper ballots by pen. Sherrod said it appeared that some who used the B.M.D. weren’t actually disabled, but just wanted to try it “out of curiosity.”

“I think so — we don’t ask what the justifications are,” he noted.

Vincent Matera, 81, said using the paper ballot was fine.

“It was O.K. for me,” he said, adding, “but I think in a real election it’s going to be a problem.”

He said he voted for Kathleen Rice for A.G. and Kirsten Gillibrand for re-election to the Senate.

Asked why he voted for Rice, he said, “She put a hell of a lot of effort into it. I’ve seen her all over” on TV. As for why he went for Gillibrand, he shrugged, “I don’t know — but I did.”

Queried how the voting went for her, Florence Kaden, 85, similar to Matera, suggested larger elections might not go so well.

“It’s fine,” she said. “It’s a small ballot.”

Stephanie Nathan found using the paper ballot “easy.” She supported Eric Schneiderman, who edged out Rice to win the A.G. race.

“I liked Schneiderman going against the Rockefeller Drug Laws,” she said. “I felt the other candidates pandered — they were going for sentimentality. And Rice seemed more conservative. I like to think of myself as progressive liberal, absolutely. I’m not ashamed of any of those words.”

Ethel Rawlings, a poll worker at P.S. 41, was helping voters feed their ballots into the optical scanner.

“I love it here,” she said of the W. 11th St. poll site. “I love the people. They seem to be organized. They know what they’re doing.”

Rawlings did note that some voters wished there were curtains extending out on the sides of the scanners so that they had more privacy when feeding in their ballots.

“I told them we all wear glasses — so we can’t see,” she quipped.

Keen Berger and Brad Hoylman, co-Democratic district leaders, reported there generally weren’t problems with the new machines in the whole of the 66th Assembly District, Part A.

“Every one of the 17 poll sites had good workers and mostly happy voters,” they said in a statement.

Chad Rancourt, another poll worker, said the only problems occurred when a corner had been torn off a ballot, which seemed to affect the scanner. People should remove their ballots from their privacy sleeves carefully to ensure they don’t damage them, he noted.

Over all, though, the optical scanners are “more reliable than the old machines,” stated poll worker John Sicoransa. “The last one I had broke down about every two hours,” he said of the pull-lever booths.

On the East Side on primary day, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, a Maloney partisan, noted she hadn’t seen a single Saujani campaign worker while she was traveling around between the poll sites in part of the 14th District, between Houston and 34th Sts. Meanwhile, Maloney was getting support, Mendez said.

“Some people tell me they have her back,” Mendez said of Maloney. “I haven’t heard anything bad about her in the street.”

The councilmember said she purposely overvoted — made marks in too many ovals — to test the optical scanner. She voted at 2 p.m., and was informed she was the first person to overvote at that particular machine. She said there were some complaints, however, of broken scanners or missing scanners at some sites, including at P.S. 198 on East Houston St. In one case, voters were told to go home and come back later; but Mendez said they should have been told they could use another scanner — which is allowed — or given the option of taking an affidavit ballot.