In the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has prioritized the prevention of foreign interference in the state’s elections, but he and his appointees on the Board of Elections appear to have largely ignored more mundane concerns such as the reliability of voting machines.
Voters across the state have reported overwhelming lines as a result of disorganized polling places, broken vote scanners, and inadequate numbers of supplies such as lights and pens, according to a local NBC affiliate.
At P.S. 22 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, “complete chaos” unfolded Tuesday morning as volunteers were forced to distribute emergency paper ballots to address a rash of inoperable vote scanners.
“ALL SCANNERS ARE BROKEN AT PS 22. They just announced that they will be collecting ballots in an emergency collection box to scan later,” voter Barry Hott tweeted. “People are very skeptical. Totally unacceptable.”
— Barry Hott (@binghott) November 6, 2018
Similar reports of broken vote scanners emerged across the city, as voters expressed concern on social media that their ballots would not ultimately be counted. At another Brooklyn public school, I.S. 746, only one of twelve scanners was working at 7:30 a.m., causing lines to extend out of the building. At P.S. 270 in Brooklyn, “People had to forgo their right to vote in privacy because of the chaos,” one voter told NBC.
Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council, confirmed to the Washington Post that polling placesin all five boroughs were effected by broken vote scanners and said that many voters had trouble using operational scanners because their ballots were wet from the rain.
“I vote at the gay and lesbian center in Greenwich Village,” said Johnson. “Typically I’m in and out in less than five minutes. But today, the lines went inside the lobby, outside the courtyard and around the block. I waited in the rain in the alley for over an hour to vote.”
Cuomo personally appoints officials to the Board of Elections, which oversees the polling places. The governor and his appointees have focused heavily on defending the state’s election systems from foreign interference, partnering with the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year to host a “first-of-its-kind series of tabletop exercises focused on protecting the integrity of New York’s electoral systems against cyber-attacks.”
“We have witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences a compromised election has had on our nation and New York will not stand idle and allow our democracy to be infiltrated once again,” Cuomo said when announcing the exercise in June. “The people of New York deserve an open, transparent election process they can trust, and these exercises are an integral part of restoring voter confidence and the integrity of our election infrastructure.”
Cuomo has also focused his energy on addressing the dissemination of political disinformation on social-media sites such as Facebook. To that end, he called on the Board of Elections in August to “issue the strongest possible regulations of the State’s new online political ad transparency laws to ensure aggressive enforcement following revelations of fake accounts on Facebook linked to a Russian campaign to influence the midterm elections.”
Since President Trump took office, Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio have been heavily criticized for prioritizing national issues over the more regional concerns of their constituents. Cuomo in particular has dedicated substantial resources toward financially crippling the National Rifle Association by suing insurance companies that do business with the gun-rights group.