New York primary

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

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’. ”

New York primary
New York primary voter Philip Kathrens’ registrations, one of which was allegedly altered without his knowledge or consent.

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.

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