The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Curious Poll Sites

So family Q headed to our usual polling place - IS2 on Parkside near Nostrand, and as is custom we passed ridiculously long lines going into PS92. I've never thought too much about it...after all, I'm as selfish as the next voter and care only for my own voting comfort. IS2 has no outdoor wait, and a five minute friendly line inside, then your filling your ovals and outa there.

Then today, I saw a neighbor from across the street - the even side of Clarkson. And she was voting at PS92. Then I started plugging in addresses to the Board of Elections site, and lots of my closest neighbors vote at PS92 too. Which got me do they determine these things? If voting district maps are written as crazy as that - think about it, south side of my street PS92, north side IS2, south side of Winthrop PS92 - what's the rationale? It's not related to gerrymandering in the traditional sense, since it's not tied to assembly, senate, congressional and council districts. I just don't get it. And I'm happy to report that the Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes today, because I felt a pang of sympathy for my neighbors standing in the cold outside 92.

Perhaps on a day less rife with anxiety over the election's result, we'll need to look into this curiosity. I smell a rat, or at the very least, incompetence.

And how about that wonderful parking lot eatery across from PS92 near Bedford? I'd do a feature on it, but I'd be afraid it would get shut down, like the in-their-home restaurant in PLG a couple years ago. Personally I think it's fantastic...they even sell newspapers with coconuts as paper weights. And today they were playing awesome AM radio hits from the '70s like "Knock Three Times...On the Ceiling If You Want Me." Or perhaps more appropriate around here "Knock Three Times..On the Ceiling If the Bass From the Dancehall Reggae Is Rattling Your Fine China."


sK said...

The line at PS92 was 2.5 hours long at 8:30am. And very very cold...we couldn't figure out the why between the two sites but I wanted to go where my name was. I really hope they can figure this out going forward. It was a mess!

Leslie said...

I went to PS92 at 9:30, stood in line until 11, and then left the line (which still appeared to be at least an hour long) because I had to be in Manhattan--and also because I couldn't feel my toes anymore in the cold. These wait times are a serious impediment to the exercise of voting rights.

@sarahspy said...

3 hour wait for me this morning at 43 Snyder... VERY disorganized chaos in there.

Anonymous said...

PS320 was so bad that I went TWICE, and had to leave both times, because the line was going nowhere...

The Snob said...

Just your quadrennial reminder that our democracy is in need of constant upkeep. Voting is so slipshod in Brooklyn -- we're just lucky NY isn't a swing state or all of our votes would be thrown out.

PS, those guys in the parking lot on Parkside are great. A few weeks ago I stopped in for zucchini bread and a steel pan practice.

Anonymous said...

2 hour wait at PS320 on McKeever. Frozen toes, but worth it! Old folks were accommodated and showed to the front of the line.
-Paul G.

Jenny said...

Took me three (!) hours to vote at PS 92 this morning. Who do we need to write to to ask why we aren't split up more equally between polling spots?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Yes we should complain heartily. I'm finding out who needs the earful, but I suspect District Leader Jesse Hamilton for one. Assemblyman Karim Camara for another. In defense of poll workers, it seems like they haven't gotten the system down with the paper ballots. It used to be much more efficient with the primitive extraterrestrial robots they used to use. I'll let y'all know who we can complain to in an organized manner. Frankly, absentee is looking pretty good right now to a lot of folks.

Ceelledee said...

I'm with Paul G. I waited about 2.5 hour in line at PS 320 before I got to vote. But it was the best damn line I've ever had to wait on in the freezing cold! Along the way, I saw neighbors and friends, laughed, told and heard stories, and made a few new acquaintances. Meanwhile, the one thing we all had in common is that we there to exercise our right to vote. I found that real inspiring.

It wasn't really all that long ago that my folk were fighting hard for the right to stand hours in a line and vote. Back then, they were being hit with poll taxes, constitutional law quizzes, grandfather clauses, literacy tests and all matter of voter suppression tactics. And that was the good bad stuff! Some of them, in seeking the right to vote, ending up losing life and limb. So, yeah. As annoyed as I got at times waiting on that line, complaining about the poll workers, etc., it was more of a joy to see that the main reason for my wait was because soooo many people had come out for their chance to cast their vote. So, nn my book, it looked like we're moving Forward! (Even if we must inch our way ahead to do so):-)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

A good reminder, C! Point well taken.

And yet, one can't help thinking that were the polls not minded by partisans and ill-trained volunteers, we would waltz in and out. There is nothing unpredictable about the number of people who come out in presidential elections, even historic ones. To me, these snafus (were are happening all over the country today) are an outrage, and another reason to question our local leaders commitment to democracy - and competence. Really, when you think about it, is there ANY more important thing than the vote? Looking at the millions who die for the right worldwide, I think not. Let's get it right.

Naomi said...

Yes, I'm glad to vote and glad so many others are doing the same. And yes, it's unacceptable that voting should be an endurance test reserved for the most committed, warm-blooded, and those with no urgent responsibilities.
There's a project to collect people's experiences at individual voting sites. If you voted, please consider taking a moment to rate your polling place at It's a neat project that is much more valuable with more participants, so feel free to forward the link.

Ceelledee said...

That's a great and helpful link you provided Naomi! I do not mean to suggest that voting should be difficult at all. To the contrary! In this day and age, none of us should have to wait hours to cast a ballot. And, truth is, there are/have been/will be some very, very serious issues going on at polling sites all over the country. Some of these voter-block issues in the tri-state area are related BOE incompetence and/or the chaos caused by Sandy. But, elsewhere, and especially in the battleground states, a whole lot more of the delays electors are experiencing are related to modern-day voter intimidation and suppression tactics. :-(

In the case of the outrageous delay at my polling site today, I was just trying to make a bit of lemonade out of the lemon of a situation. Most times in PLG, we're able to just walk into our polling sites and walk out in minutes 'cause no one's there! Voter apathy rules! Today's turnout however was clearly a testament to the fact that, in this election, people want to be heard. I thought it a good thing to mention that before we all got rolling with a typical rant thread that leaves us all feeling even more frustrated. Which is also why I thought your link to was an excellent and productive addition to the conversation. Thanks again!

AJM said...

I waited outside for three hours at PS92. I arrived at 4:45, finally got inside at about 7:50, and then it took me an addition 40 minutes to navigate the complete chaos inside. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I gave up after two hours because I was cold and tired. Line hardly moved. It was OK if you had kids as you could walk right in. I heard inside was chaos - my friend had to let 7 people go ahead of her once she got to vote - people who had gone to the wrong line.

Anonymous said...

I walked to PS92 twice (6:30 and 4:30) to check the line, but it was around the block both times, so I went to IS2 and filled out an affidavit ballot. Thanks to Cuomo for his executive order in the wake of Sandy! Sure, I didn't get to vote in my local election, but at least I got to do something.

ElizabethC said...

Small piece of trivia....every district has a "District Leader" who is in charge of voting sites and poll workers. I saw mine last night in the midst of utter mayhem at the Caton school. I have to say I am not a fan of the new scanners.

babs said...

I voted at MS61, on Empire and NY. I had to go twice - I waited in utter chaos and mayhem for 40 minutes beginning at 7 AM- they really did not have their act together at all.

I went back at 2 and things were much better. Our line was INSIDE the school, so nice and warm! It was still fairly chaotic, but I also enjoyed the chance to chat with my neighbors and also to see so many people using their precious right.

However, the poll workers are, for the most part, completely unequipped to explain and deal with the new paper ballots. I have used these before, as they were introduced in 2010, so I'm almost an old hand with them (although definitely NOT a fan), but for many people it was their first time with them, and some people, especially the elderly, had real problems with them that poll workers were too overwhelmed to address.

The writing on the, for starters, is TINY! The first time I voted with one, one of the poll workers lent me her glasses - today I knew to bring my own, but not so many others.

Additionally, the fact that both Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan appeared twice (as Democrat/Working Families and Republican/Conservative) seemed to confuse many people, even though it had also been like that with the old machines, but I think it was less apparent with them, so several peoples' ballots wouldn't scan and they had to be redone - poll workers were NOT happy about this.

Finally, a friend told me a scary story about voting at PS 61 - she complained to me that the poll worker couldn't read her name on her ID. I asked her what ID, and she stated that everyone there was presenting their IDs when they got up to the table.

They weren't being asked for them, mind you, these (mostly young) people just assumed it was automatic. And the poll workers weren't doing anything to stop it.

This of course prompted a lecture on the Constitution, the history of Voting Rights in the country, recent voter suppression efforts in places like Pennsylvania, etc.,from me, with the admonition to her "Don't EVER show your ID to vote. What do you think so many in this country have fought so hard for, for so long?"

Don't they teach Civics in school anymore, or is that now merely a Honda?

babs said...

Sorry, that incident wasn't at MS 61 - it was at the school on McKeever Pl. - PS 375?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

There is a perfectly simple solution. Anyone can vote by mail, internet or in person, using their Social Security number and a PIN. If you don't have an SS# or PIN, you must go to the polls on election day. This would be a tiny fraction of the people you see in line currently. If more than one person tries to vote using an SS#, or if someone believes theirs has been used against their will, they contest it. There would be maybe .01% of voters that have this sort of problem, and the Feds would prosecute to the full extent anyone trying to scam the system. A bipartisan commission in each district would count the legitimate votes and send along to the Feds. All of it could easily be checked and double checked using a simple computer program. The local authority over voting is pathetic and inexcusable. I think the centralized system would cut down on lines, voter fraud, and intimidation, not to mention the difficulty for some people of even getting to the polls at all. What if you're sick? Suddenly infirm? Employer won't let you leave work for FOUR OR FIVE hours?

Oh, and then there's that pesky electoral college. How can we continue to watch the polls in solidly blue and red states and then say to our children with a straight face "your vote for president matters?" Why don't we just have the governors do the voting for us? It would be about as fair as electors...

Anonymous said...

An SSN tied to a vote means the vote isn't secret. And a Federally controlled vote is much easier to manipulate.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I'm sure there's a way to encrypt so they don't match. Btw, the poll worker that put my form into the machine took a nice long look at my ballot before it went in!

Perhaps another way to do it would be to say - hey, if you want your vote to be secret do it this way. Frankly, i don't know anyone who doesn't shout their preferences from the mountaintop.

And what about all the states where it's predominantly voting by mail? Don't poll workers see your vote when they open your mail?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Also, I'm not sure I agree that centralized voting is more easy to manipulate. All the "appointed" election leaders and poll workers seem much more prone to manipulation than the feds. I'd think you'd have about as much chance of manipulation as with your taxes or SS payments. In the end, the vote tallies are probably closer to an approximation than an actual number, but thankfully the representative sample is large enough it probably doesn't matter.

babs said...

I know a lot of people (myself included) who highly prize the element of confidentiality in voting, I make no bones about my political preference, but how I vote is no-one's business but my own. And I also noticed pollworkers eyeballing ballots, but it's kind of hard to avoid, when they have to help so many people feed them into the scanner - yet another reason I hate these new machines.

And the endemic use of Social Security Numbers (or "socials" as many companies have taken to calling them - I always pretend I have no idea what they're talking about and make them say the whole thing) as identification completely violates the system as it was set up - which was only to track workers' pensions. FDR allowed several other government agencies to use it (notably the IRS) but its pervasive use as identification is incorrect and dangerous and, in fact, would make your vote less, rather than more secure - social security numbers are easy to guess- see here for an article on the subject: The current system of voter registration works as it should; actual voter fraud is quite rare - I won't link to any of the many articles on this topic, but they're out there.

And I, for one, enjoy the ceremony and the feeling of connectedness I get with my neighbors and forbears by physically coming out to vote on Election Day - even if it means waiting in line for hours.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I applaud your patience Babs! I guess I'm just unable to stand queues, always been that way.

The SS, or even a poll number, could just be used to PROCURE your ballot. They could be randomly assigned but specifically barcoded so you couldn't vote more than once. Voila!

My point is really only that I abhor the authority given to local god-only-knows-who to determine how and with what system we will vote. It seems anachronistic and cronyist and, I believe, leads to suppress voter turnouts. States with mail and early voting AND day-of registration have much higher rates of participation. Coincidence? Of course not.

I see that the Magenta Yenta got just 3% of the vote. Though the republicans seem to have disowned her at the last minute!

babs said...

All of these things - poll numbers, ID numbers, etc., required each time you vote have been struck down repeatedly. How are you going to vote more than once under your own name in the current system? You sign in, you get your card, you give the card to the poll worker before voting (or on the current setup, scanning). You'd need to use several names to have several votes in any case (which is how it was done back in the days of Tammany Hall), so you'd wind up with several bar codes, etc.

And signing people in wasn't causing the delays - those nutty machines were.

And I did a lot of phone banking to early voting states in this election - yes, some people voted early, but the majority of people I spoke to told me they were waiting until the day of because it felt right.

A neighbor of mine really called it - some people near us were complaining about the wait and she asked the, "So how long did you wait in line for the new iPhone?" Dead silence. Some people don't know how lucky they are.

And if you're really opposed to waiting you can always request an absentee ballot beforehand.

Anonymous said...

Waiting in line for 10-20 mins to vote along with your neighbors is reasonable, waiting for 3-4 hours is ridiculous.This is NYC not old Russia or a third world country.

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with the candidates listed under multiple parties? Does voting for a candidate under the working families party rather than as a democrat, for example, benefit that party in any way? What's the difference if not?

Anyway I ask because a poll worker (at mckeever pl) seemed to say to me that I had to vote along a party line or else the machines would nullify my vote... Now it was late and I could have misheard? Maybe some people were voting for their candidates in multiple parties instead of just one? It didn't really bother me because for some of the offices where a third party I might have voted for (like green) was present I didn't have much information to go on.

Did anyone else have a similar experience? Would it matter if I voted for someone as a democrat or as a working families candidate?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Actually, it matters quite a bit. These weird "third" parties have a long and often bizarre relationship with the big 2. It's rare that one of their own candidates wins an election, so instead they "fusion endorse" candidates already on the ballot. They can do this if "their" candidate for governor gets 50,000 votes. So they choose the repub or dem candidate and endorse them, and if 50,000 vote using their ballot line, then they qualify for the next election, giving them a chance to nominate someone in every office.

It has no bearing on how many votes actually get cast for a candidate. If you voted for Obama, you voted for Obama and it gets tallied under his name. It's more of an insider game, all about currying favor and making political points. And every once in awhile, they actually elect someone. Look at Tish James, one of the most admired and detested members of the City Council - and a member of the Working Families Party.

In theory, this weirdo system could help make the two major parties more accountable to their most left (working families) or most right (conservative) constituencies. I don't think that works in practice, and there are those who say it leads to political extortion. I don't know about that. But it's a particularly NY kinda problem, and one that's worth investigating if you want to know the whole story. I'm a novice, so I'll leave it to others to drop the knowledge.

babs said...

It's also all about those parties getting money: if a candidate gets at least 5% of the popular vote in the previous election, that party's candidate can apply for federal matching funds in the next election - so for example, if at least 5% of the popular vote went for Obama as a WFP candidate, the 2016 WFP candidate (assuming it was not the same as that of another party) can apply for matching funds.

The candidates also have to raise at least $5000 in each of 20 states. This year (2012) both Jill Stein (Green) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) qualified for matching funds, meaning that at least 5% of the popular vote in 2008 went to each of these parties AND they raised enough in private donations.

In 1992, on the other hand, Ross Perot, who got 18% of the popular vote running on the Reform party, did not qualify for matching funds, because the 1988 Reform candidate (if there was one) hadn't gotten 5% of the popular vote, while in 2000, Pat Buchanan did get matching funds, despite winding up with less than 1% of the popular vote.

BTW, this money comes from that box on your income tax return that asks if you want $3 of your taxes to go this program.

babs said...

Here's an interesting article on why third party candidates matter. Granted, it's from Colorado, but I think a lot of what he says could apply to NY as well (particularly the part about third party candidates holding stances that are closer to the average voter's beliefs than those of the two main parties):

Anonymous said...

Thanks for following up on this! Things were indeed a nightmare at PS92 this week. I've shared my experience with Election Protection, which has been doing a great job of tracking problems across the country and coordinating organized responses. They invite you to share your comments here:
But we need to notify locally too: I've been searching for the appropriate Board of Elections office or representative to send my comments but can't figure out where they should be directed. Please do share if you come up with more suggestions.

It took me three hours to get in the door (and then another 45 mins from there). Contrary to most reports I've been hearing, I did not experience any of the bottleneck to be related to the new ballots/technology; instead they were in the part of the process that was the same as it's ever been.

a) Poorly trained poll workers who were not using efficient techniques for (manually) finding voters by name in their rolls, requesting signature, issuing ballots, etc. For example, the table for my district was staffed by five people and the registration rolls were split into two parts, but only one of those five workers (the lone man among them) had control of the books to find each of our names. The four others working with him (women) seemed uncomfortable challenging his dominance, and so they were relegated to mostly sitting around and handing over documents when he said it was time. I am not exaggerating when I say that once I was close enough to observe, it took over 30 minutes for him to process the six voters ahead of me. Complaints to the polling station manager went unheeded, as she didn't want to interfere in the mini-fiefdom at that table.

b) There were simply way too many districts polling at the same site. Voters from my ED (one of the most populous in New York City), and at least eight or nine others (maybe many more?) were casting our ballots in the same small school room. As far as I know, this was not due to any last minutes changes forced by the storm, but rather the default plan by the Board of Elections following redistricting. When I lived in fancier parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, my polling sites served only a few districts each. Someone would have to work pretty hard to convince me that's purely coincidental.

I agree with each of you; waiting in line with all those other folks who were simply not going to give up (considering the violence and hunger strikes that our forebears endured) was inspiring, and it was also an outrage (considering the violence and hunger strikes that our forebears endured). I want to help make it better. But I need to know who to talk to about it!