Some Local Voters Didn’t Receive a Congressional Ballot During Tuesday’s Primary Election

By Mariel Priven

Upper West Siders at multiple voting locations reported being given ballots on Tuesday morning without the page for the congressional primary.

The error appears to be related to mistakes made at the individual polling locations, not the Board of Elections. It’s not clear how many people received incomplete ballots, though workers at two of the stations said the problem was fixed quickly and it likely impacted few voters.

There are multiple races being contested in most districts on Tuesday. Along with a presidential primary, there is a congressional seat up for grabs in the 10th district, with Rep. Jerry Nadler defending the seat against challengers Lindsey Boylan and Jonathan Herzog.

One thing that’s clear is that this election — coming in the middle of a pandemic when thousands of New Yorkers are also voting by absentee ballot for the first time — poses new challenges for voters and poll workers.

Poll workers, who usually receive election-specific training prior to each Election Day, were unable to receive such training due to the pandemic. Instead, they relied on the training they received last November. As a result, some poll workers were unaware that today’s voters were to receive both presidential and congressional ballots, two separate documents. Some voters who arrived at the polls early in the morning, particularly between 6–7 a.m., were handed only the presidential ballot. Early-morning voters from at least three Upper West Side locations reported not receiving the congressional ballot.

At the polls at 160 West End Avenue, a 6:15 a.m. voter noticed the mistake and immediately pointed it out to poll workers. The poll worker explained to West Side Rag that she quickly contacted her coordinator at the elections office. Before the issue was resolved, two more voters appeared and were informed that if they chose to vote then, they would be able to vote in only the presidential election. One chose to vote then nonetheless, and the other chose to return later in the day.

Elyse, a resident of and voter at 160 WEA, explained that she arrived at 6:30 AM and chose to vote only for the presidential nominee. “Nadler’s going to win anyway,” she stated.

By 7 a.m., poll workers at 160 WEA realized that the congressional ballots were at the bottom of a pile of documents they had assumed were only presidential ballots. Other than those three early-morning voters, all voters at the site correctly received both ballots, according to the poll worker who spoke with the Rag.

Benoit Gendron, who voted at 61 West 62nd at around 7:00 a.m. only received a presidential ballot as well. “I didn’t say anything thinking I must have got it wrong, that maybe our district wasn’t up for election or with Covid, things may have moved around. It’s only after I saw on the West Side Rag’s Twitter feed that other people experienced the same thing that I realized something is up.”

Similarly, when Jeff Gardner went to vote at 6:15 AM at the Hamilton Senior Center on 73rd Street, he noticed that he was handed only the presidential ballot, and pointed out the issue to a poll worker. In an email to the Rag, Gardner explained that “She seemed surprised, looked at some papers posted on the wall, and said it must not be contested in this district, although she noted that the race was on her ballot when she had voted in her district further up on the UWS.”

Justin Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Manhattan Board of Elections, said he checked with voting sites and did not receive any reports of problems; all materials were delivered on time. Presumably, poll workers at 61 West 62nd and the Hamilton Senior Center had received the congressional ballots and just took time to find them, as at 160 WEA. By late morning, all ballots were present.

For others, especially those who voted later in the day, the pandemic actually eased the voting process to a certain extent. “There’s nobody there. It’s empty, sparse, and easy,” said UWS voter Susan. “No waiting in line. The whole thing took a few minutes.” When asked for whom she voted, she gladly reported, “Biden and Nadler, again, easy.”

Irene Kassel, who voted at the 160 WEA site, explained that she sent in a request for an absentee ballot, but never received it. She was able to vote in person, where other voters expressed that they too had not received their absentee ballots. “I’m concerned that voting by mail won’t work,” she told the Rag. “But I would’ve waited on lines for hours if I had to, I’m so concerned about this election.” Kassel also said that as an upper-middle-class, White voter, it is not too difficult to access the polls. Lower-income and minority groups, on the other hand, may have a harder time accessing the polls, especially during the pandemic, and “it doesn’t look like the absentee ballots were the perfect solution.”

“But I got to keep the pen!” Kassel smiled. Upon arriving at voting sites, voters are required to sign in on a tablet, manned by the poll workers. Voters use a dual-function stylus pen to sign on the tablet, and then proceed to use the pen to fill out their ballots. So when you go to the polls today, make sure that you have both the presidential and congressional ballots, and you’ll leave with that “I voted” sticker and a brand new stylus pen.

NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Bob Lamm says:

      Add me as one more West Sider who sent in immediately when I received the form for an absentee ballot but never got one. I went today and voted in person. But others were probably disenfranchised by never receiving the promised absentee ballots.

      Let’s not forget that our city’s Board of Elections is an endless sewer of corruption, scandals, and incompetence. November 3rd is sure to be a mess.

    2. B.B. says:

      Many people in my building got their absentee ballots in yesterday’s mail.

      Delivery was > 3PM so unless they filled out at once and ran to nearest post office, the things wouldn’t be postmarked in time.

      Entire NYC BOL needs to be thrown out and thing started from scratch. Even in good times they cannot get things right, so how did anyone expect things to go well during a crisis?

    3. John says:

      Sounds like voter suppression

    4. Bonnie says:

      A well researched article.that will be helpful to voting residents On the UWS. Bravo !

    5. AC says:

      Excellent reporting!

    6. Leon says:

      I mailed in my absentee ballot form in mid-May, using the one Nadler sent us. We have since decamped to another location but one would have thought it would have been forwarded to me by now. Nothing. And we obviously can’t vote in person.

      I really hope things run better in November, particularly in battleground states, or we will have a real mess on our hands. Trump hates mail-in ballots but if the process doesn’t work right I’m sure he will try to use it to discredit the election if he loses.

    7. Carzz says:

      I didn’t receive my absentee ballot in time, so I went to my polling location at Frank McCourt HS earlier. While the flow of people was managed well, I was pretty horrified to see that quite a few poll workers were not wearing masks, and one of the workers approached me with her mask around her chin.

      • Rex Short Arms says:

        At Bernie Wohl it was quiet in the evening but some of the poll workers were wearing their mask covering only their mouth, others put them on when someone else showed up to vote.

    8. Tara Loewenstern says:

      I only received in the mail the Presidential Primary Ballot NOT the Congressional Ballot. I phoned Varick St yesterday, 6/22, I thought maybe it was my fault, regardless I was confused. I questioned it, was transferred, waited & then disconnected. Today, I wanted to vote person for the Congressional but have read it’s not possible since I sent in a paper ballot already for the Pres Primary for Biden. My choice Nadler. I’m confused about when AOC is running. Would I be voting for her today too? Or just Nadler’s seat? My polling station is W 97.. An honest mistake, but Dems don’t want to leave ourselves vulnerable to these voting mistakes. We can’t get this voting thing wrong. Learn from this please.

      • Boris says:

        Yes, you were confused.

        You have only one representative which appears to be Nadler. AOC doesn’t represent your district so you can’t vote for her.

    9. Randi Horwitz says:

      @markknispel and I had the same problem at 61 W. 62nd St around 7:20am. We alerted the supervisor and had it corrected. They were unaware that there was a second page. The ballots were still in the supply desk. Luckily only about 6 people had voted prior to us according to the staff. We also alerted Jerry Nadler’s office.

    10. LWVNYC says:

      If this happened to you or you had other issues with voting, please call us – the League of Women Voters of the City of New York – at 212-725-3541. We will log the complaint and report it to the BOE. Phones will be answered until 9 pm tonight or 10 am – 5 pm during normal business days.

      BTW, you can still vote in person if you sent in an absentee ballot. Only the in-person vote will count. Polls are open until 9 pm.

    11. paulcons says:

      Coming off MAJOR surgery, walking to my polling place was an issue, so I got the absentee ballot, was complete and I mailed it back. HOWEVER, in my ambulations around the hood for recovery, I noticed a polling place literally less than a block from where I live. Why do I have a longish walk when it could be around the corner?

    12. Glen says:

      I sent in the request for the absentee ballot and like the others here did not receive it. I figured any city with DeBlasio in charge would not be able to handle such a simple request competently, so I went up to West Side High School and voted early. The set up could not have been more professional. Everyone very helpful, no line, I was in an out in 5 minutes with a nifty new pen that they give you to use and keep.

    13. Public says:

      In a publication there was a sample ballot this was most helpful so I knew what to look out for. West 77th empty site Ms. L looked up my name & address, after I signed the tablet she said my signature was different pulling up last time I signed . . then she proceeded to review my ID card? After completing my civic duty I was given a I’M A FUTURE VOTER sticker? The Shade!

    14. Laurie says:

      I requested an absentee ballot and only received the presidential candidate ballot.

    15. sheila wolk says:

      never got mine either but limped over to vote to make sure I counted!,,I got both sheets and asked WHY did they give us the presidential selections when sanders already bowed out??
      .. 2 of the workers said there was no time to reprint..OR….if they removed that then there would be no reason to have voting day and I said NO!
      ….I wanted to vote for Jerry Nadler and that was on another sheet and YES he was running to get elected again!… I did get that sheet and more people running with him on the back of sheet..had to choose 7 people to vote for there

      I pray come November all the voting Stations get their act in gear on voting day..too important not to vote!

    16. M Dreyfus says:

      The Bd of Elections made every effort to accommodate voters, and there was no distinction between upper-class Caucasian voters and those of different locales, income levels or ethnicities. The BoE was quick to inform all poll workers to provide both sheets for the ballot. Y They provided wipes, masks, gloves and face shields as well as stylus-pens.
      Mds Dreyfus

    17. cma says:

      Will try to be brief. I received two applications for absentee ballot. After long phone wait to BOE was suggested to use one from Nadler office since return address was direct to Manhattan BOE. The other from BOE return address was to main BOE Office— from which it would then be sorted and sent to Boro BOE. So Nadler one was suppose to be faster. Ha! As of Friday had not received so went to early voting WSHS location. So easy. FYI my absentee ballot arrived June 24, day after election What the blazes is going on? Am fearful for Nov.election. And don’t blame it on the post office, either!! ‘nuf said.

    18. Jordan says:

      I dropped off my application at the post office at the end of May. Never received a ballot. I ended up voting in person at John Jay on Saturday. Went very smooth. Took less than 10 minutes.

    19. Sydney Barrows says:

      I could have sworn that I heard Governor Cuomo’s aide,. Melissa DeRosa say on more than one occasion that the state was mailing every registered voter a ballot. What happened???