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Are "paper ballots" the same as "provisional ballots"?

If so, a lot of Upper West Side voters at our polling place found themselves fucked this morning.

We vote in NYC in our apartment building; one of the Trump buildings on Riverside Blvd.  Fairly pricey neighborhood (like most of the Upper West Side), upper middle class to upper upper upper middle class residents.  Usually voting here is a breeze; today was the first day I've ever seen lines at all.  Still, the lines were only 5-10 minutes long.  Several buildings - 160,180, and 200 - all vote at the same place.

I had no problem voting.  Gave them my last name, signed the card, pulled the old fashioned lever, felt jubilant and a little emotional.  They'd already run out of "I voted" stickers, so the pollworkers were handwriting them on pieces of tape!

However, my husband - and everyone whose last name starts with A-L in our building - were told that they'd have to cast "paper ballots" because "the machine for your building and your alphabetical numbers isn't working."

They told him he could come back later, but he figured there would be longer lines then, so he wrote up his paper ballot, dropped it in a box, and left.  Dozens of others were doing the same.  

I had already left the polling place.  I would have told him to come back if I'd beetn there.  Do these paper ballots count as full votes, or are they "provisional"? If they're provisional, doesn't that mean the votes aren't actually counted?

Anyone who knows NYC/State voting law, please inform.

There were others at the polling place who were told to cast "paper ballots" as well...for more mundance reasons.  For these people, I had little sympathy.

A 30-something, very well-dressed woman in front of me, obviously in a hurry, was distressed that her registration couldn't be found.  The pollworker asked her, "Did you register at the same address?" "Oh," she said. "No, I used to live at 160."  After scouring some more, the poll worker asked her, "Did you register under the same name?"  Another moment.  "No," she answered, "My last name used to be T-.  Now it's R-"  She was directed to cast a paper ballot.

Next to me in another line, another harried-looking woman was annoyed with the pollworker.  "I used to live at 200!"  she was saying.  "I always voted here before!"   Her registration couldn't be found.  She, too, was told to cast a paper ballot.

First of all, these women were obviously educated and relatively affluent.  How dare they not check in advance that their voting registration was correct.... for the most important Presidential election EVER? The woman with the name change appalled me the most.  I can see forgetting to register your divorce/marriage name change before a city council election, but for a Presidential election?  THIS Presidential election?  Unforgiveable.

All these paper ballots going into the bin occurred in the space of less than half an hour.  What does this mean overall?

I'm certainly not worried that Obama won't win NYC.  He will, by a landslide.  But this kind of sloppiness is very upsetting to me.  While canvassing in Allentown PA over the weekend, I saw a commitment and resolve to vote in the eyes of low-income men and women, and a sense that they felt involved in the democratic process for the first time in their lives.

To see this kind of sloppiness and apathy on the Upper West Side of New York, well, it was disheartening to say the least.  

The Audacity of Hope may win out, but the Perseverance of Apathy was still a bummer to witness.

Originally posted to hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:51 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  no (7+ / 0-)

    paper ballots are NOT the same as provisional ballots, it's really fine.

    Politics is highschool drama taken to a new level.| 08ama! | -5.50 -6.26

    by vertexoflife on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:52:46 AM PST

    •  What a relief! Thank you! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      browneyes, NY brit expat, B Unis

      My husband will be happy to hear that.  I guess I was the worried concern troll in our household this morning.

      Man, does it feel good to vote on those old fashioned lever machines, though.  Just so -- SOLID!

      "There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." - Gandhi

      by hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:55:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Election reform now (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopesprings, B Unis

    Is someone collecting all of these?

  •  Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE and also (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopesprings, BachFan

    your City Council Member's office.

    ALL elections should be treated equally rather than sloppily.

    Media Reform Action Link

    by LNK on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:55:36 AM PST

  •  I've never heard. . . (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roseba, hopesprings, Mr X, BachFan

    of a provisional ballot in New York.

    In any case, if the failure was due to the lever machine, I'm 100% certain that the paper ballot will be considered a regular ballot, not some kind of provisional ballot.  Obviously, the system is set up to count the machine ballots but, assuming the paper ballots are handled properly, yours should be counted just like mine.

    It is important to juice the turnout in places like New York (which is likely to give the highest percentage win to Obama of any state) in order to produce the most impressive national popular vote figures.  This will help to counter shenanigans elsewhere, and it will help make the case that Obama had a huge win and has a mandate for big changes.

    John McCain, you are _not_ my friend.

    by LarryInNYC on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:58:03 AM PST

    •  Exactly! (0+ / 0-)

      That's why I was so annoyed by these relatively wealthy women who seemed to have done nothing to ensure that their votes be counted.

      Just baffling to me.

      "There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." - Gandhi

      by hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:59:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're being too severe. (0+ / 0-)

        Voter registration is something that most people simple don't think about -- they assume once they're registered, that's it.  I'll bet you never canceled your registration in the last place you were registered to vote, did you?

        I certainly don't check my voter registration every year, nor have I checked it in the past when I've moved after I submit the initial registration.  I was actually purged from the roles in 1984 when I wanted to vote against Reagan -- I'd graduated from college in 1983 and spent a year working and traveling abroad.  I never changed my registration because I had no new fixed address.  I blew into town on election day to vote and found that the registrar of voters automatically purges all student addresses when they graduate -- because, obviously, you're not still living there.  It was extremely annoying, but I can't really blame the registrar. It was a reasonable policy.

        John McCain, you are _not_ my friend.

        by LarryInNYC on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:04:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, yes I did (0+ / 0-)

          cancel, after I left LA.  But to be fair, it was a big move, LA to NY.

          "There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." - Gandhi

          by hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:05:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  As I recall... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There are provisional ballots, but they are for people who are not on the list but insist they are registered. I have seen them in the count at the end of the day from time to time. I don't think (though I'm not sure) they are the same as the paper ballots that are used if a machine is broken.

      At PS 282 in Brooklyn the line was almost all the way around the block by the time I was done voting. Amazing turnout and people are so enthusiastic to be waiting in a long line! Heard similar stories of lines around the block from people in Manhattan as well.

      New Hampshire voting reported on NPR as lines. Combination of rain and a 40% early voting turnout.

  •  All is well. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopesprings, BachFan

    Occasionally they have to make changes to voting systems when the equipments throws 'em a big fail.

    These are less provisional ballots and more substitution ballots.

    Good luck there in the Big Apple.  And enjoy your afternoon!  :-)

    Tiger the Tabby 1990-2008 RIP

    by browneyes on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:58:36 AM PST

    •  Thanks, and thanks for this! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A positive note:  the parking attendants, the doormen, the janitors, all the working folk in the building were very jazzed this morning.

      I asked everyone "Did you vote yet?"  and I got enthusiastic replies:  "I'm going on my lunch break!"  "Right after work!"  

      The look in their eyes and the excitement told me who they were going to vote for!

      "There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." - Gandhi

      by hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:01:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My polling place (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopesprings, BachFan

    send me to the wrong precinct line. After waiting for about 10 minutes, I was sent to the correct line, only to find out that our machine broke, and I had to vote on paper ballots.  There was a lot of confusion on the procedure. They pulled it together as best they could.  The biggest problem in my eyes, was a lack of pens for the voters to use in order to fill out their ballot.

  •  Saw your title. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thought there was a croissant shortage or something.

    John McCain, you are _not_ my friend.

    by LarryInNYC on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:05:21 AM PST

    •  Plenty of croissants, but there is a frightening (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      latte shortage this morning!

      (And I've heard rumors they are already rationing the chardonnay and brie for tonight!)

      People are going beserk.

      I don't know how we'll survive.

      "There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." - Gandhi

      by hopesprings on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:07:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  150 Riverside? Was fine when I was there... nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  two different situations (0+ / 0-)

    Pretty simple actually.

    1 - Polling places have a supply of paper ballots in case machines break, malfunction.  These are just regular ballots, not provisional.

    2 - if someone doesn't appear on the rolls (and there are usually a two separate lists - been a couple of years since I played Pollworker in NYC), then they get a provisional ballot which is verified and then counted separately.

    But don't get hung up on "provisional" ballots in NYC anyway. Your vote will count.

    "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by SteveP on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 09:18:28 AM PST

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