Even as some New York City residents waited in lines to take buses to the polls, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today there's a bigger problem: the state's new voting machines.
"The system that we now have in place, instead of you going to one place to get your card and then into a booth, you go to one place, you get a folder, a card, a ballot, then you have to go to another place to fill it out while people look over your shoulder, then you've got to go to another place to stick that piece of paper into a scanning machine," Bloomberg said at a news conference.
Bloomberg said he encountered delays and confusion at his own polling place today, with many voters unsure of the traffic flow to voting machines and the extra steps required to cast a ballot.
"They were just stunned, and I kept hearing, 'What's this, a third-world country?'" Bloomber said. "We did have machines incidentally that worked; they worked fine. You could go in, you closed the curtain behind you, you pulled the levers."
Bloomberg also identified other potential issues that could factor in close elections, including the possibility of the paper records from optical scan machines being misplaced.
"Now unfortunately there are papers that come out and have to cut them with scissors and paste them and staple them together. They can get lost, they can get mixed up. It is just a nightmare, and it's really hard to understand in this day and age how you could do that," he said.
In parts of areas most damaged by Hurricane Sandy, such as the Rockaways and Staten Island, voters gathered in tents to cast their ballots, while others boarded shuttle buses operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to ferry them to polling places.
A 2002 election procedure law and subsequent federal spending provided resources to replace antiquated mechanical lever voting machines, a move made after the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida and the recount debacle. Those machines were prone to mechanical failures and it became more difficult to get parts for some of them.
New York City held onto the old voting booths for as long as it could, finally moving toward an optical-scan voting system starting in 2010. This is the first presidential election in which the city will operate the new machines.