Study Finds Blacks More Likely to Wait in Long Lines at Polls

Survey released as details of chaos, confusion at city polling locations continued to emerge.

A study by the AFL-CIO and Hart Research uncovered a racial gap at the polls in Tuesday's election, finding that 22 percent of black voters nationwide had a wait time of over 30 minutes compared to 9 percent for their white counterparts.

The statistics were released days after voters across Brooklyn and the rest of the city stood in lines for hours as chaos, confusion and overcrowding plagued polling places — many of which are located in neighborhoods with high numbers of black, Latino and Asian residents.

"We need a 21st century voting system," said Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Brooklyn. "Instead of relying on one book and pen and paper, they need to embrace technology."

Compounding the problem at voting sites throughout the city, James said, were untrained poll workers who, in some cases, could not hear well, see small type or comprehend basic English.

Examples of confusion and long lines were legion across Brooklyn on Election Day, from voters expecting to cast ballots at P.S. 58 redirected to Carroll Gardens Library to tempers flaring at Marlborough Gardens in Ditmas Park to longtime voter Alonso Sealey turned away from P.S. 91 in Crown Heights.

James, who is running for Public Advocate in 2013, said she would push for a system already in use by a growing number of states throughout the U.S. 

"Early voting would go a long way to addressing these long lines," she said.

A request for comment on James' call for early voting was not immediately returned by the state Board of Elections.

The state Legislature would have to approve any changes to New York's voting system.

In addition to early voting — which has been instituted in some form in 32 states and the District of Columbia — James proposed setting up curbside ballot drop-offs for seniors and people with disabilities as well as giving CUNY students to opportunity to work the polls in exchange for college credit.

The Brooklyn Democrat also rejected the idea that voting reform was a racial issue in the five boroughs, saying that complaints were fielded from a diverse array of voters from the Upper West Side, East Harlem and Flushing on Tuesday.

"The lines were long all over the city, in communities of color and in communities period," James said.

Eddie November 10, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I, myself, was one of the individuals who was tempted to NOT vote. I live in Crown Heights and when I went to the polling site, I asked the woman in charge if there were any accomodations for the handicapped. She abrasively told me no and told me that I had to get back on line before I lost my spot. The site was extremely crowded and feeling discouraged at having to stand for at least 45 minutes, I left and decided to go back in the evening. On my way out, I bumped into my neighbor. She asked if I'd voted and I explained to her that because of my disability I cannot stand for long periods of time. She told me that there was an area to the side where the handicapped were seated and someone had been assigned to assist them. I told my neighbor what I had just experienced and she told me that the woman in charge was incompetent, that she herself had had words with her. When I went back in the evening, the newly assigned woman in charge walked me through the voting process and I was in and out of the site in less than fifteen minutes.
Mark L November 10, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Before we can evaluate this story we need to understand the question. If the question was simply "how long did you wait in line to vote" and there was a disparity between blacks and whites it could have reflected a willingness to wait. Perhaps black voters were more intent upon voting and actually more dedicated than their white counterparts. Were their fewer machines (in the case of NYC, scanners) in districts serving black voters than serving white voters? If that were the case, then perhaps the conclusion stated in the lead (and headline) would be valid. Council Member James should not leap to conclusions, nor should the editors and headline writers at Ditmas Patch.
B Maxx November 10, 2012 at 11:22 PM
For Mark L congestion simply more bodies per machine. For example and until the recent redistricting in Fort Greene it was easy to observe the disparity. The polling station at 100 Clermont during major elections was always packed with predominantly Black voters; in contrast the polling station at 225 Aldelphi, with a much higher proportion of whites was never as crowded. Walk around during the next General Election and your eyes will tell the story.


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