Redrawn districts confuse borough’s primary voters

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Although there were few contests in Queens, last week’s Democratic primary elections were plagued by confusion caused by redrawn district lines, misprinted information cards and poorly printed translated materials.

Many voters were confused when they were sent to new polling places as a result of redistricting, said city Board of Elections spokeswoman Naomi Bernstein.

But voters in southeast Queens were hit twice, once by the confusion caused by redistricting and then by a computer error at the Board of Elections. As a result of the error, thousands of voters were sent to incorrect polling places, said Bernstein.

The mixup occurred when computers mistakenly read the numbers of schools used as polling sites, Bernstein said. For example, PS 188 in Hollis became PS 18 in Bellerose. The correct information was scheduled to be sent out within a week of the discovery of the error, and the Board of Elections Web site and helpline (1-800-VOTE-NYC) had been updated before the Sept. 10 primary, Bernstein said.

But that did not stop City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) from getting many angry phone calls, he said.

“There were a lot of frustrated voters,” Comrie said. “People in my district vote regularly and have been voting in the same polling places for years.”

Although Bernstein said it was unlikely that the mishap affected voter turnout, some people have insinuated that they were intentionally confused in order to stack the deck against state comptroller and gubernatorial hopeful H. Carl McCall, who was facing Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary when the incorrect information was sent out. Cuomo dropped out of the race a week before the primary.

“A lot of people feel that it was done to hurt McCall and to give Cuomo a boost,” Comrie said.

The primary in the newly created 39th Assembly District in Jackson Heights, which is composed predominantly of Latinos, was marred by general confusion about the changed boundaries that prompted many voters to visit the wrong voting site and be turned away at the polls.

Bernstein said many voters failed to pay attention to notices sent out informing them of new polling sites.

“It’s not our fault,” she said. “We try to make it easy for the voters. Short of sending a little man along to every mailbox, there’s not much we can do.”

But a volunteer for the campaign of Jose Peralta, who won the Democratic primary for the 39th Assembly District about 220 votes ahead of Francisco Moya, according to the latest count, said the election workers should have been better trained to ensure that everyone who visited a polling site had a chance to vote.

“Instead of telling them to vote on paper, they were sent away,” said the volunteer, who asked that her name not be used. “Nobody should be turned away from voting.”

Poll problems extended to other parts of the borough as well.

In downtown Flushing, voters complained they were not properly notified of poll site changes as a result of redistricting.

Korean appeared on the ballot for the first time in certain parts of Flushing, adding to the problem.

“There were some problems with regard to poll workers not putting out the translated (Korean) materials,” said Glenn Magpantay, staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which monitors the election in heavily Asian areas. “Translations on the ballots were too small for voters to read.”

But overall, Magpantay said the city Board of Elections was improving.

“They did a good job at hiring more bilingual poll workers, so we’re very pleased,” he said.

Here are the unofficial results from the city Board of Elections as of Tuesday:

– 6th CD: U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) 21,750

Rey Clarke 5,867

– 7th CD: U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) 14,356

Dennis Coleman 8,596

– 13th SD: John Sabini 4,545

Nestor Diaz 3,824

Charles Castro 1,836

– 16th SD: Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) 7,228

Julia Harrison 4,735

– 22nd AD: Barry Grodenchik 1,598

Jimmy Meng 1,446

Ethel Chen 956

John Albert 336

– 31st AD: Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) 2,466

Taj Rajkumar 1,082

Charles Pringle Jr. 652

Bryan Block 564

Rev. Henrietta Fullard 546

Michael Duvalle 434

– 32nd AD: Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-South Ozone Park) 5,308

Rachel Gordon 1,508

– 39th AD: Jose Peralta 1,428

Francisco Moya 1,222

William Salgado 737

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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