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How the NYC Election Debacle Infringed on Our Rights



The New York City Board of Elections. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Our ancestors fought to empower all of us with the right to vote, giving us the civic duty to use that right to steer America into a fairer and more just direction. The Election Day debacle in New York City was a direct infringement on that right.

As I entered one polling site, three of five voting machines were down with jammed paper ballots. Poll workers stood by waiting for technicians to correct hundreds of jams citywide, while tens of thousands waited on line for hours — some of them abandoning their efforts altogether. My office has so far catalogued complaints from about 50 polling sites in Brooklyn alone that faced considerable challenges.

The excuses given by the New York City Board of Elections executive director ranged in lunacy from an excessively high voter turnout, ballot size, and rainy conditions. The fact is that we had months to prepare for whatever came our way on Election Day, and our democracy cannot afford a repeat failure when the presidential election comes in two short years.

While New York has always been known for being ahead of the curve for innovation and progressive policy, our elections are run in a backward-thinking fashion. It’s an 8-track system for our iPhone age, trapped by a clogged and unimaginative bureaucracy.

Now that the dust has settled from Election Day, I am renewing the call for a five-point agenda to address the problems we encountered this year and in years past:

  1. We must have in-depth investigations at both the City and State levels to review what went wrong in the planning, staffing, and voting machines. Initial oversight hearings have been called in the Assembly and City Council, and further scrutiny is critical.
  2. Poll workers need training that includes simple maintenance and repairs to voting machines, instead of wasting hours for technicians to arrive at a polling site, for fixes as simple as removing a stuck ballot.
  3. We must adopt early voting. Not only will this reform — available in 37 states and the District of Columbia — allow more people to cast a ballot, having multiple days of voting allows for early detection of election-related problems. Waiting until a singular Election Day is nonsensical.
  4. Our city is home to leading technology firms, and we need to call on them for guidance and input on efficient and innovative technologies that will provide secure and reliable methods for voters to cast their ballots. We should be forward-thinking and pilot new methods like mobile voting, which was tested for the first time last week in West Virginia.
  5. We need buy-in from all stakeholders for structural reform at our Board of Elections.

Additionally, because 47 percent of Brooklynites speak another language at home, I support newly introduced legislation by Council Member Mark Treyger to permit interpreters to enter polling sites and assist voters. The current rules requiring that they stay 100 feet away from polling sites defeats the very intent of providing interpreters in the first place.

At the cornerstone of this country is the right to vote, which is the responsibility to be part of the process that chooses our representatives. No one should be made to endure hours-long delays or onerous difficulties to exercise that right. We can’t continue to sing the same broken record of a broken system.

Eric Adams in the Brooklyn Borough President



  1. Frances Ruocco

    11/28/2018 at 10:15 pm

    This crashed as I was trying to write a comment. Guess it did not like what I was saying about the scanners and how they work. There should never be any found votes in any of the boxes that were not scanned and/or where the voters were not told the scanner was broken and their vote would have to be scanned later and/or counted by hand. There should be special classes for the scanner operators and/or closing of the polls. Most workers know the other duties very well but need help with the scanners opening and closing. Only new workers should have everything reviewed again and again. Interpreters are not held outside 100 feet from the polls, only those who are electioneering. Interpreters are sent according to the Census forms which means many are not sending in their forms. Probably illegals. We should all be fingerprinted or have a machine where we put our hand over it like in doctors’ officers. Many are fingerprinted to work, they should be fingerprinted to vote and collect benefits. Then we would eliminate a lot of fraud. Only one who has something to hide does not want to be fingerprinted.

  2. Robert Seidenberg

    11/29/2018 at 7:12 am

    I have been both poll worker and Coordinator for the past 20 years. Every time there’s an election something goes wrong and a political person vows to have the Board investigated.
    It’s about time. Not only are the scanners inadequate the training is as well. The hiring of workers needs to be addressed. The nepotism within the Board has to be addressed. The anti-semitism and discrimination within has to be addressed. The Board cannot be a Political Machine. Give me the name of any company that pays its employees 4-6 weeks after an event, a raise of 50.00 after 20 years. Outrageous.
    Someone has to put his money where his mouth is and shake all this out and do something
    Robert Seidenberg

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