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Queens Chronicle

Primary Day chaos deters some voters

Polling sites moved without notice, redistricting causes much confusion

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:56 am, Thu Sep 27, 2012.

Lenore Dunton, a senior who has lived in St. Albans for over 40 years, walked from her house to cast her ballot at nearby PS 36 last Thursday, only to see a sign stating that the polling site had been moved to PS 118 in Hollis, about a mile away.

“This is a bunch of crap,” Dunton said. “Are they trying to prevent people from voting?” The longtime resident was so angered by the situation that she considered not voting at all.

Stacey Cibble of St. Albans pulled up in her car and almost immediately she too noticed the sign and was greatly annoyed. She said she had called 311 to confirm that PS 36 was her polling place, just five minutes before going to cast her ballot.

“They said based on my address, and they looked it up, they told me my polling site is supposed to be here,” Cibble said. “Rather than argue with the woman — she was adamant that I’m supposed to come here — I decided to drive over here. And I’m here and there’s no voting.”

Despite her own inconvenience, Cibble said she was more worried about the seniors who live in the neighborhood and are unable to drive, and added that the last-minute notice of the polling site switch was very unfair.

“How are these elderly people supposed to get over to 118, and why weren’t there any notices sent to the home addresses advising people?” Cibble asked.

Another woman who showed up at PS 36, and declined to give her name, said she wasn’t going to bother going to PS 118 since the Board of Elections hadn’t notified her that her polling place was moved.

Citizens in Southeast Queens were voting in either of two Democratic primaries for the state Legislature. One race was between state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) and two challengers for her 10th Senatorial District seat, City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) and Gian Jones, a member of Community Board 14 in the Rockaways. The other was between 33rd District Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and attorney Clyde Vanel. The winners were Sanders and Clark.

Over at PS 118, good Samaritan Carrie Roberson had loaded up her car with five seniors from her neighborhood to make sure they were able to vote. “We’re all from St. Albans, and this area is Hollis, which is totally ridiculous, and these are seniors, and these are the ones they put out of the district,” Roberson said.

Minnie Parker, who uses a cane, expressed similar sentiments, adding that it was difficult for her to climb the stairs at PS 118 — there were no stairs at the entrance to PS 36. “I’m very upset that they moved us, because I can’t get around very good with my legs,” Parker said.

Another school that’s no longer a polling place — though voters got notices saying it was, and there was no sign redirecting them — is PS/IS 270 in Laurelton, located a block away from Sanders’ office.

“I vote here. I came to vote today. There are no voting booths set up and no one said anything,” said a woman who identified herself only as M. Washington. “I want to exercise my right to vote.”

A security guard at the school said she had turned away at least 200 would-be voters that morning. Many then went across the street to Sanders’ office looking for answers, but it was closed, with all the councilman’s staff at his Rockaway location.

Sandra Halpert called the BOE only to be told there was no primary in her district. She said she then asked who had dropped out, thinking that she would be voting in the Sanders-Huntley-Jones race, but it turned out her area was moved into the district represented by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica).

Voters Stephanie St. Claire of Rosedale and Robert Knox of Laurelton were among those residents who had received BOE notices in the mail telling them to go to PS/IS 270, only to be turned away.

“It’s disgraceful,” said one angry woman, who identified herself only as Naomi.

Not all voters were confused and miffed, however.

“It was very easy; I’m a happy voter,” said Dennis Maxfield of St. Albans, who cast his ballot at PS 118.

And a coordinator at Grace Lutheran School in Queens Village, said things had been going smoothly there.

One voter, Ena Scott, said she had no problems casting her ballot. “It was pretty simple,” she said. “This has always been my place. It hasn’t changed, so it was OK.

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