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Queens Chronicle

Voting mess must be fixed fast

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 10:30 am

As the city veers from trophy projects like the High Line to avant garde regulations like the ban on big sodas, it neglects its core municipal functions. The latest example is last week’s debacle called Primary Day.

All over Queens, people were told by the Board of Elections to go to polling places only to find handwritten signs directing them to vote somewhere else. It happened at PS 36 in St. Albans. It happened at PS 98 in Douglaston. It happened at PS/MS 200 in Electchester. And so on.

In Kew Gardens Hills, things got really weird, as letter writer Richard Reif reports. Voters who usually cast ballots at PS 164 were told in advance to vote at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Hillcrest instead. But Orthodox Jewish voters were upset at the idea of voting in a Catholic Church, so state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) intervened. The BOE then said the Kew Gardens Hills Library would be the polling place. But on Primary Day, only Republicans were allowed to vote there; Democrats were directed to the church. That’s just bizarre.

Also bizarre is the way some voters were told there was no primary for whatever party they were in, when in fact there was. A case in point, confirmed by Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), happened at PS 113 in Ridgewood. A Democrat who wanted to vote in the primary between Miller and his challenger, Etienne David Adorno, was told only Republicans were voting in that school. The voter contacted Miller’s office, which then deployed an attorney to straighten things out. Magically the Democratic book was found, and voting ensued.

One might say the problems stemmed from this year’s redistricting of legislative seats, and there’s much truth in that. But the answer to challenges is to rise to the occasion and meet them, not fail utterly in your job. Yet the city BOE, which, let’s face it, has an easier task overall than say, the education or police department, didn’t manage it. It even printed ballots in 7-point type, just over two-thirds the size of what you’re reading now. That’s too small, especially for the elderly, who are the most reliable voters.

Now everyone from Miller to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is calling on the board to get its act together before the Nov. 6 general election. Let’s hope it does. Voting, you may have been taught in school, is a rather crucial part of our democracy, even for those who enjoy big sodas at the movies and don’t go to fancy parks in Manhattan.

Welcome to the discussion.