Story after story, the frustration is palpable: New Yorkers, fired up to vote in Thursday, September 13's crucial Democratic primary election, are being told they're not on the voter rolls.
"Went into vote skipping," tweeted Nomiki Konst, a political activist in Astoria. "But just found out my name was not listed on the roll at my polling place. Despite having the recently sent documentation from Board of Elections with me." She said she then filled out an affidavit, or provisional ballot. "Who knows when they're going to count that provisional ballot?"
"The energy right now is good, though. I have a Cynthia shirt on and keep getting stopped," Konst tells Refinery29. Like many of the people who were turned away today, Konst supports Cynthia Nixon, the Democratic Socialist candidate for governor who is hoping for a big upset tonight in her challenge to two-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom she blames for corruption and breaking the subway, as well as dirty pre-election tricks.
Went into vote skipping. But just found out my name was not listed on the roll at my polling place. Despite having the recently sent documentation from board of elections with me. Had to fill out provisional. #Astoria #Queens #NYPrimaries pic.twitter.com/X1koftPJut— Nomi: TODAY Vote Cynthia, Jumaane, Zephyr 🌹 (@NomikiKonst) September 13, 2018
A wide variety of people, many of them frequent voters, all over New York state said they were told they are not on the voter rolls on election day, prompting widespread frustration and allegations of voter suppression.
"Guess who wasn't on the rolls this morning at the polling place I've voted for four years?" tweeted writer Rebecca Traister. (The New York City Board of Elections alleges that Traister is not registered to vote.)
As of noon today, the New York State Office of the Attorney General's Election Day Hotline had received 40 calls and emails with reports of problems at the polls, Amy Spitalnick, the AG's communications director and senior policy advisor, tells Refinery29. "The majority involve voters not being in the rolls," she explains, "although at least some of those have to do with New York's confusing and strict change of party rules." Many have complained that New York state law makes it extremely hard to change your party before the election — and if you're not a registered Democrat with an active status, you can't vote in the Democratic primary.
Spitalnick encouraged those who run into trouble to contact the AG's hotline at 800-771-7755 or email email@example.com. "These reports allow us to both troubleshoot individual issues for voters and track systemic problems," she says. The hotline will operate until 9 p.m., which is when polls close.
The New York Attorney General’s Office will be operating an Election Day Hotline on Thursday 9/13 from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.— NY AG Underwood (@NewYorkStateAG) September 12, 2018
If you encounter *any* problems at the polls, please contact us immediately:
💻 firstname.lastname@example.org pic.twitter.com/vYH0yzoHP6
You can also call the Election Protection hotline administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at 866-OUR-VOTE.
To help potential voters, Cynthia Nixon's campaign is also operating an election-day hotline, which you can call at 646-688-4124. "These sorts of issues are common," Sarah Ford, a Nixon spokesperson, tells Refinery29. She says it often happens when multiple election districts are housed within one polling location, which can cause confusion. A voter will go to their assigned polling place, but not know that they need to know their district number and end up standing in the wrong line.
"Mistakes like these are why New York needs progressive voting reform, the type Cuomo has deliberately failed to enact," says Ford.
Make sure to clarify with poll workers which Election District you’re in, since can be more than one district at polling locations. If you’re still having trouble, please call our hotline: (646) 688-4124 You can also look up your election district here: https://t.co/t9JANrL5hV https://t.co/ULcbqXGIzH— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) September 13, 2018
This is what happened to Kim Garcia, 21, who lives in Yonkers, another Nixon supporter. "I went early to go vote and apparently my name wasn’t on the list," she tells Refinery29. "I left and came back half an hour later with my mom and a nice lady helped me out. I showed them that I was an active voter. At first, they took me to the wrong table. But then, they took me to the next table and were able to find my name. Thankfully I went back, because I wanted my vote to count."
If you are voting in New York today and encounter an issue at the polls, make sure to first double-check that you're in the right spot for your election district. Also, ask the poll workers to check for your name again, as sometimes their lists are not in alphabetical order. If your name still isn't on the rolls, ask to fill out an affidavit ballot. But after that, it's still a good idea to contact the AG's hotline and/or to contact your local election judge, who can give you an order so that you can exercise your right to vote.
We've reached out to the New York City Board of Elections and will update this story when we hear back.