The polling difficulties in New York City started early on Tuesday. Morning voters showed up to their assigned sites only to find no workers there to help. Others waited hours for their locations to open up. Reports of technical issues and inept staffers came in steadily throughout the day. And, most damningly, tens of thousands of Brooklynites learned they’d simply been purged from the voter rolls altogether.
And that was just the primary.
New York City’s struggles are troubling. They raise the question of what the general election—eight short months away—will look like in the biggest city in the country. But New York isn’t the only location where voters have reported obstacles this year… or last cycle… or the one before that. New York, which has faced its share of electoral “snafus” before, simply gets outsized attention since it’s a media and population hub. New York City’s comptroller, Scott Stringer, said Tuesday that the city’s voters have “lost confidence” in local officials’ ability to administer elections. Of course, that feeling is not restricted to New York.
This campaign cycle, barriers to easy voting throughout the United States have fallen along a spectrum: from the technical and human-error ridden to what some voters and activists see as deliberately difficult. Outdated or broken ballot machines have baffled voters and poll workers alike. (Poll workers, it should be noted, only man these beasts a few times a year.) Precincts across the country—from the first contest in Iowa to Tuesday’s in New York—seemed to run out of ballots at every turn. And, after the Brooklyn purge, voters’ distrust has only ticked up: According to New York City Board of Elections’ Michael Ryan, roughly 125,000 Democratic voters were stripped from the BOE’s voter lists—because they hadn’t voted in recent cycles or responded to notices, they had moved, or mailings to their homes were returned to sender. “We’re not finding that there were issues throughout the city that are any different than what we experience in other elections,” Ryan told CNN, though he was apologetic in an interview with The New York Daily News. Certainly the Brooklyn debacle isn’t routine.