Mayor Bloomberg on New York’s New Electronic Voting Machines: “A Royal Screw-Up”

None other than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called New York’s first experience with electronic voting machines–complete with delays, broken equipment, and ill-prepared election workers–“a royal screw-up.”

voting booth lever

New York State was one of several to vote today, having some of the most important primaries in the country (including the Republican governor primary, Democrat Attorney General primary, and both primaries for the seat vacated by Secretary of State Clinton, though not the most important election of the year). Unfortunately, its brand-new electronic voting system wasn’t up for the challenge.


New York is the last state in the country to embrace electronic voting machines. These aren’t particularly advanced, either; they’re merely scanned sheets similar to the Scantron system used by schools for standardized tests. But the new system still caused widespread delays, breakdowns, and complaints–bad enough for Mayor Bloomberg to call the rollout “a royal screw-up.”

Delays were reported across the state and especially in some of the poorer urban neighborhoods in New York. Voters were turned away in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically poor area of Brooklyn, due to the failure of these new machines. Across the city and elsewhere in the state, there were delays, although to be fair, many news outlets seem to be exaggerating the inconvenience of some minor delays. Says the Wall Street Journal:

Among the many voters who experienced delays was New York’s senior
senator, Charles Schumer. His polling site in Brooklyn didn’t open on
time, forcing Mr. Schumer and other voters to wait about 15 minutes.
Even after the precinct opened, it took another 10 minutes for site
workers to get the scanning machines up and running.

Not that it’s particularly encouraging for one of the more connected and well-to-do polling places in Brooklyn to be delayed, but a 25-minute delay is not exactly the end of the world. Other questionable problems include the inability of at least one elderly voter to read the ballot (even with a provided magnifying glass, somehow) and one who needed three attempts to get her ballot through the scanner.

There were real problems: In addition to the Bedford-Stuyvesant example, some polling places received fewer machines than expected, causing huge delays, and at one polling place, the provided ballots were printed on paper too large to fit into the scanners. Many voters ended up stuffing their ballots into overstuffed “emergency voting boxes,” which led some to question whether their votes would actually be counted.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in Brooklyn (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law