New York’s Primary Isn’t Going Smoothly So Far
BY EMILY ATKIN
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Less than halfway though primary election day in New York, a main voter protection hotline has already received “hundreds” of phone calls from people with complaints, issues, and questions about their voter registrations and polling sites.
New Yorkers have been turned away due to problems with their voter registrations; polling sites have been closed; and equipment has been malfunctioning at sites across New York, according to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke’s organization runs the Election Protection hotline, which seeks to help voters work through challenges they experience at the polls.
“The traffic to our polling hotlines has been pretty significant,” Clarke told ThinkProgress on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re seeing a high volume of calls, which suggests this is not an election that is problem-free.”
The most frequent complaints received so far have been from voters who are confused about the New York’s closed primary rules, Clarke said. In New York, only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary and only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. Registered New York voters who wanted to switch parties had to do so by October 9, 2015 — more than six months ago — and many people didn’t realize they had to do it so early. New York has the earliest change-of-party deadline in the country.
We’re seeing a high volume of calls, which suggests this is not an election that is problem-free.
The result was that many New Yorkers showed up at their polls sites thinking they could vote, only to be turned away, Clarke said. One of those voters was Bayville resident Kali Ventresca, who changed her party affiliation from independent to Democrat on March 20, five days before New York’s registration deadline for new voters. Ventresca told ThinkProgress she didn’t realize the deadline for existing voters was different than the deadline for new voters. She fully expected to be able to cast a ballot.
“I’m pissed,” she said.
Other voters, however, insisted they did everything correctly with their voter registrations, and were still turned away because their names were not on the voter rolls.
“There are certainly some people who believe they did everything right, they registered well in advance, they registered and indicated their party preference, and expected to be able to vote in their party primary and their names are not on the rolls,” Clarke said.
In addition, voters in Brooklyn have reported that their polling sites were closed. Clarke said that one site at 195 Graham Ave was closed “due to technical difficulties.” Poll workers there reportedly “directed voters to another alternative site, and told voters they should go there and cast affidavit ballots,” Clarke said.