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Voting in One Little Corner of Brooklyn

Sometime before 7am yesterday morning, my partner and I dragged our two sleepy kids out of bed and walked to the back of a long line outside a middle school in our central Brooklyn neighborhood. This line would eventually bring us to a gymnasium where we would cast our votes. 

But before we were able to do that, we hit a few minor glitches. First, when we actually got to the gym, no one could tell us what table to vote at. (This was not all that surprising since the method employed to do so involved shuffling through a messy pile of papers upon which handwritten addresses were scrawled). Luckily, I saw a neighbor in line behind a table for district #2, and joined that one. This line slowly brought people to a table where election workers confirmed voter identities against signatures found in the registry.  But when we made it to the front of the line, I discovered that despite having been registered to vote in New York since 1998, and at my current address since 2008, and even though I had voted in this very gym many times, my name was nowhere to be found.   One of the workers turned out to be a woman who lives across the hall from me. When the other person checking signature at the table hesitated, she said, "It's okay, she lives in my building," and I was given an affidavit and a paper ballot. I filled out the forms, turned in my ballot and was out of there in a little under two hours.

Other neighbors didn't fare as well. Throughout the day, I followed posts from confused and disheartened would be voters, got texts from friends waiting in endless lines and took a call from my upstairs neighbor asking if I knew which table in the gym our building voted at, since she was encountering the same blank states and shuffled papers that I had seen hours earlier. 

Then, getting off the train on the way home from work last night, I saw the father of a girl from my son's old daycare. He told me he had arrived at our polling station at 5:45am, and waited for two hours before being told that his name was nowhere to be found. He was informed that as a result, he couldn't vote. The dad went home to find his (unnecessary) voter card, came back, waited two more hours and finally found someone who let him fill out an affidavit and a paper ballot.

But while we were all slightly inconvenienced in ways we probably shouldn't have been, my building's super and his daughter Mona, were unable to vote at all.   Mona is a 21-year-old college student. Though she has voted in a few local elections, this was going to be her first presidential one. Her dad, Dan, is a native of Jamaica and had recently become an American citizen. This was going to be his first time voting at all. As Mona told me,  "He was really excited about it."  But neither father nor daughter ended up being able to to excercise this basic right.    Though they were registered voters, like me, their names weren't in the official registry. Upon discovering this, an ill-informed attendant sent them to another polling station, a good ways away. Once they arrived there, they stood on a long line only to be told to go back to their original station.  So back they returned, all the time enduring ever longer lines (we are talking hours of waiting at every turn).  

Along the way, another person in line told them they could fill out an affidavit and a paper ballot. In fact, their right to do this was ensured by an executive order signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the wake of super-storm Sandy. Nevertheless, when they asked for an affidavit and a paper ballot at our polling place, they were informed by multiple people that this was not an option! So eventually, after missing hours of work and school, and without getting their vote in, they left.

Whether this was the result of changed rules, redistricting, or the brand new scanner machines that no one seems to know how to use, what it comes down to is that people who should have been able to vote, were denied the opporrtunity to do so. 

We might not have faced the same scandals that plagued other parts of the country this election, but yesterday, voting was a mess in my neighborhood.

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