As New Yorkers go to the polls to vote in state primary elections Thursday, some voters are finding there’s no record of their registration. That includes some prominent media figures: New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister and HuffPost Editor in Chief Lydia Polgreen were among those who tweeted their names were missing from the rolls at their local polling places — meaning they can’t cast a regular ballot. They were far from the only ones. Others tweeted about their experiences having to sign an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot for the first time in years. Local New York publication Gothamist reported “mass confusion” at some polling stations. The stakes are high this year — there are contested primaries for major statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. People whose names aren’t found on the rolls can still vote, they just have to sign a sworn affidavit validating their identify before they can cast a provisional ballot.
It’s tough to know how widespread the problems are. As of noon, the voting hotline set up by the attorney general’s office had received 40 calls and emails, according to Amy Spitalnick, communications director for the attorney general’s office. That number suggests today’s issues are not as widespread as they were in the 2016 presidential primary.
The latest reports are a reminder, though, that many voters still don’t trust the New York election system. The New York City Board of Elections illegally purged about 200,000 voters off the city’s rolls in 2014 and 2015, an issue discovered during the 2016 elections. Suspicion around that purge has loomed over every election since, even after the board of elections agreed to clean up its act and institute reforms. And every time there are problems at the polls, this spurs concern and frustration that the city’s voting systems are still not up to par.
“This is a perennial problem,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of voting rights organization Common Cause New York. “It’s very hard to maintain an active voter roll, but in New York City it’s particularly challenging because of the large number of voters, the way people move around readily and the fact systems are not user friendly.”