Thursday night’s New York primary is home to perhaps the biggest showdown yet between the establishment wing and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. And voters across New York City have had a really hard time voting.
Journalist Sean T. Collins spent Thursday afternoon compiling some of the most egregious complaints of voter suppression from voters attempting to cast their ballots in the hotly contested gubernatorial primary, in which actor Cynthia Nixon is mounting a progressive challenge against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
On the lieutenant governor ticket, New York City council member Jumaane Williams is challenging incumbent Kathy Hochul. Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout is the progressive challenger in the Attorney General’s race, running against New York City Public Advocate (and Cuomo supporter) Letitia James and establishment pick Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York).
Rebecca Traister — a journalist based in New York City — tweeted that despite voting at the same precinct for the past four years, her name wasn’t listed on the voter rolls. She added that the poll worker she talked to said another regular voter at that precinct had a similar issue:
Guess who wasn’t on the rolls this morning at the polling place I’ve voted for four years?
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) September 13, 2018
Also worth noting: this was 8:30, and the poll watcher who helped me said I was the second person she’d spoken to who had this problem—another woman who said she was an active, regular voter and not in the books.
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) September 13, 2018
Huffpost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen tweeted that she experienced the very same problem when attempting to vote on Thursday. BuzzFeed News producer Caroline Moss tweeted that it took her poll worker a half hour to eventually find her name on the rolls after her name was initially not found.
Others complained that they had to call the local courts and obtain affidavit ballots in order to cast their vote, rather than simply vote at their polling place. Most of the voters who complained about voter suppression were supporters of Nixon, Williams, and Teachout:
This happened to me too and I forced them to look at every book for every district and – surprise – they found me 👀 took a half hour.
— Caroline Moss (@socarolinesays) September 13, 2018
— KennyHerzog🌊 (@KennyHerzog) September 13, 2018
Peeved that my wife and I were nowhere to be found on the voting roll this AM in Wash Heights, despite not changing our registrations and voting recently as last year. Someone really didn’t want my vote for @CynthiaNixon and @ZephyrTeachout 😡
— James Ryan (@jdryan08) September 13, 2018
Because the New York primary is a closed system, voters who are not strictly affiliated with the Democratic Party are barred from voting in the Democratic primary. While this may seem like an effective way to make sure the primaries aren’t influenced by voters from opposing parties, it can lead to voter suppression.
Journalist Kea Krause tweeted that she was unable to vote due to someone changing her party affiliation without her knowledge or consent. Other voters were almost turned away because poll workers had mistakenly sent them to the wrong table when checking whether or not a voter was registered:
I wasn’t able to vote today because my party had been mysteriously changed without my permission. I filled out an affidavit and hope my vote eventually counts but this is just a reminder that our voting systems are messed up no matter where you go.
— Kea Krause (@KeaMKrause) September 13, 2018
I changed my party affiliation when I changed my address and it didn’t go through so I can’t vote today. Thanks New York, love that primary system
— Jaime Poland (@elspunko) September 13, 2018
someone in front of me was registered with the reform party after believing themselves a democrat https://t.co/H3OVmaFhUW
— Jaime Lutz (@jaime_lutz) September 13, 2018
Checked my voter registration online. According to the state, I’m not anything. I’m a registered independent. So to recap, the poll workers say I’m a member of the Reform Party, the Democrats say I’m a Democrat, and the state says I’m an independent. Cool. pic.twitter.com/cjGCqTasNd
— Michael Ballaban (@Ballaban) September 13, 2018
I registered online as a Democrat 3 times (all three times well before the primary deadline) and each time my registration confirmation came back to me as no party affiliation
— ER$ATZ RICKY (@riggawaggel) September 13, 2018
they initially sent me to the wrong table and i had to get them to check again, and another girl had misread the sign and they were going to send her away until i pointed out that she was at the wrong table
— molly brooks (@mollybrooks) September 13, 2018
If you’re voting in Port Washington, beware. They told me I wasn’t on the rolls and to do an affidavit. I called the board of elections and found out that, in fact, I’d been sent to the wrong table. The poll workers said they’d given out tons of affidavits. Someone fucked up.
— Stagger Lee Shot First (@elongreen) September 13, 2018
Some New York primary voters even reported being given wrong information about how late polls were open. While the polls are open until 9 PM Eastern Time, New York state senator Marisol Alcantara (a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, which allied with senate Republicans) apparently sent text messages telling voters the polls closed 90 minutes earlier than they actually did.
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) September 13, 2018
Perhaps the most disturbing report from a New York primary voter came from Seth Clark, a photographer for Cosmopolitan. His poll worker apparently told him that entire apartment buildings had been removed from the voter registration rolls.
I wasn’t either — at the same place I have voted for 4 years. And I checked online this morning to make sure my voter status is active, which it is. The woman at the desk confided that whole apartment buildings were missing from the rolls. They helped me with an affidavit ballot.
— Seth Clark Silberman (@sethclark) September 13, 2018
The problems voters are reporting tonight are not unlike the problems reported in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary in New York. The problem of party affiliation changes was so widespread that a Facebook group sprung up called “NY Voters Whose Registration Was Changed Without Their Knowledge.” Many of the voters were supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who wanted to vote for Sanders in 2016, but were unable to due to last-minute, unannounced changes to their party affiliation.
One post in the group in the wake of the 2016 primary was from voter Philip Kathrens, who posted photos of his original Democratic Party registration right under his new registration, which had been changed to “other” without his knowledge.
“After phoning the [New York Board of Elections] to find out what happened and repeatedly being told that I was a liar and then hung up on, I went online to REREGISTER. The website gave a deadline of March 17th to switch,” Kathrens wrote. “Maybe this was wrong as well. Either way I reregistered as a Democrat. I just got the new card and it still has me registered as ‘Other’. ”
Regardless of who wins tonight’s primaries, there very well may be an investigation into the multiple voter suppression complaints from New York voters.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.