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New Yorkers complain of long lines, confusing machines at polls

By Bradley Gallo, CNN
  • Some voters say new machines are confusing, poll workers are untrained on them
  • New York Mayor Bloomberg late-opening polling places "a royal screw-up"
  • Elections officials say they're working on problems

New York (CNN) -- New Yorkers who voted in Tuesday's primary got to use their state's new electronic voting machines, referred to as scanners, but early-morning voters experienced long lines and system errors in numerous districts, according to the city's public advocate.

Bill de Blasio said he received complaints from around the city. "There are problems everywhere, but specifically where I voted in Park Slope, Brooklyn -- they were not functional until 9 a.m. So they lost three hours," De Blasio said.

De Blasio said he's concerned that morning voters who saw long lines may have skipped voting in order to make it to work on time.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to reporters' questions about the complaints saying, "We have been told of some polling sites that opened two to four hours late.That is a royal screw-up and it's completely unacceptable."

"It means some voters waited for hours and other voters may not have a chance to cast their ballots at all," Bloomberg added. "We've also gotten reports of broken and missing scanners and emergency ballots and poor customer service."

Howard Bragg, an onsite coordinator for poll workers at a school on New York's Upper West Side, said the biggest issues with the new scanning systems occurred when voters fed their ballots into the machine to be recorded. Bragg said if the edges of the ballot were not torn off evenly, the scanner spit it back out and the screen gave a "system error" message.

Bragg likened it to putting a crinkled dollar bill into a candy machine. "If it's not crisp, it will come back at you, but that doesn't mean the machine registered the dollar," he said.

De Blasio also received complaints that city polling workers were untrained in the new systems. "The new machines have been a year in the making. They had plenty of time for training and it wasn't even close," de Blasio said, adding, "The old machines always had a protocol to follow if something went wrong."

In a written statement city's board of elections said it "knew the change to the new voting system would present challenges."

"The Board and its staff have been working to prepare all 1,358 poll sites across the City for today's Primary Election and ensure all machines meet these stringent standards. We have staff in every borough working to deliver any missing equipment," the statement added.

The board said it encouraged all voters to have patience at their poll site.