For many voters in Central Brooklyn, trying to cast a ballot in was an exercise in confusion and frustration.
Redistricting has changed the polling places for voters across the state. While some voters in Crown Heights and Prospect Heights said they got notices of the change, other said they did not. Some voters took the time to vote, only to learn that their polls were closed because nobody in their district was running.
Lula Stanton, a retired postal worker who lives near Kingston Avenue and Sterling Place received a voter information card over the summer telling her that her voting site had changed. But when she went to the new site she found it closed. She trudged back to her former polling place, filled out an affidavit ballot, and later learned that her vote wouldn’t count because there were no contested elections in her district, the 56th.
Adelaide Miller, an 88-year-old retired teacher and member of Community Board 8 said she's voted in every election since she was 21 "until now."
She spent an hour walking from one poll to another before she called the Board of Elections. They told her that the polling site sent to her was correct, but it never opened because there were no primaries in her district.
“We understand if there isn’t an election, but why didn’t they notify us,” said Miller. “Some people had walkers and canes. All these people went to the polls and nobody could vote.”
Samantha Bernardine, another member of Community Board 8, said she never received notice of a change in her polling site. She went to P.S. 22 on Classon Avenue, her regular polling place, only to be told she wasn’t on the list. She voted by affidavit ballot.
She said friends and family members also didn’t know where to vote. “My friend across the street, her entire building didn’t know where to vote.”
Martine Guerrier, who ran unsuccessfully for assembly in Prospect Heights’ 57th district, expressed frustration with what she called needlessly confusing polling place location changes for some 57th Assembly District residents.
"It's already a low turnout election and the last thing you want to do is discourage the people who actually want to vote," she said.
And Councilman Jumaane Williams, D-Flatbush, released a statement late Thursday night railing against the Board of Elections for what he called the “worst example of voter disenfranchisement I have personally seen.”
“Voters, many of them seniors, were streaming out of polling sites screaming, cursing and near tears over the frustration they experienced. There are countless stories of voters being told that they were at the wrong polling site; it is understandable that there would be some issues due to redistricting, but with this much confusion the problem clearly was a lack of accessible information,” he wrote.
He said “numerous” voters were not told they could use an affidavit ballot, and one woman was told the “paper ballot would not count and was discouraged to fill it out.”
"Quite frankly, it appears that the Board of Elections dropped the ball on today's election. They had the entire summer to correct the problems reported from the June primary. They had even longer to properly inform every voter, including seniors that have limited to no computer access, of where their appropriate polling site was located. The inconsistencies in the training of poll workers is troubling, particularly their lack of initiative in assisting with each and every problem they encounter,” he wrote.
Paul Leonard contributed reporting.