Lines at the Polls

Some confusion at polls, but turnout generally strong

     East Hampton has 19 election districts, and each one tells a story. Depending on where they live, voters formed two lines at East Hampton High School Tuesday night. Voters from District 14 reported waiting up to an hour that evening to cast their ballots, while for District 1 there was no line at all. The latter district encompasses neighborhoods south of the highway in East Hampton Village. The former district includes areas around Accabonac Road and Town Lane.

     The shorter lines for some districts may have been due to the fact that many people in them had voted by absentee ballot, according to Dinaz Kaprielian, a poll coordinator at the high school location. Longer lines probably pointed to a denser year-round population.

     Andreas Mejia waited in line for 30 minutes at the high school before being told he could not vote there and instead needed to cast his ballot at the Amagansett Firehouse. "They're just not coordinated in there," he said. "Why are there so many obstacles here, when in places like South America, you just go to a booth, press an electronic button and it's done?"

     Some voters, like Mr. Mejia, mistook Governor Cuomo's order to mean that they could vote by affidavit anywhere, instead of showing up at the place where they are registered, Ms. Kaprielian said, noting that an essential criterion to take advantage of the governor's order was that a person be "displaced." She added that she didn't allow "someone who had trouble walking" to vote by affidavit at her site even though he had traveled on foot for about a mile. "A good Samaritan gave him a ride to and from his correct polling place at the Neighborhood House," she said.

     Tyler Borsack, an East Hampton resident who voted at the high school, said the "old voting system" was more efficient. He described the optical scan system now in place as "taking a step backwards." He much preferred the curtained booths in which voters could flip down a switch and then pull the lever to cast their ballot. "The process was a lot faster," he said. Mr. Borsack said he voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, because his "vote wouldn't count in this state, anyway."

     Kim Borsack, his wife, said she voted for President Obama. "Romney lost me when he said he would get rid of Big Bird," she said, referring to Mitt Romney's comments about cutting funding to public television and public radio. "We have a 2-year-old. You've got to like Big Bird."

     Paul Jones, also a voter at the high school, believed the time he spent in line to vote for President Obama and Representative Tim Bishop was well worth it. "Waiting in line to vote for 30 minutes is nothing," Mr. Jones said. "It's like this every election here."

     Three scheduled poll workers did not show up at the high school, said Chaz Riggi, an inspector there, and at times, he found it difficult to effectively address the multitude of voter concerns.

     Ed Nash, a poll watcher at the Neighborhood House for the past six elections, echoed Mr. Riggi's concerns. He believes there was a record turnout this election, when on Tuesday night, almost 1,500 voters from three districts had filled in ballots at that location. Like most poll workers, Mr. Nash was on the job from 5 a.m. to at least 9 p.m. He said workers were "overwhelmed" at the height of voting during the mid-afternoon.

     Nancy Quinn of Long Beach, who voted at the Neighborhood House by affidavit, said poll workers were "very helpful and accommodating." Her house in Long Beach was completely destroyed, and she is staying with her son and daughter-in-law, Ian Quinn and Lara Goorland, at their summer residence in an East Hampton mobile home park. "We don't know when we will be able to return home," she said. "It looks like bombed out Berlin." She added, "My mother lived through the 1938 hurricane, and said Sandy was much worse."

             Things were comparatively quiet four hours before polls closed at the Amagansett Firehouse, where voters were in and out in less than five minutes, a contrast to earlier that afternoon, when all 24 chairs set aside for waiting voters were filled. Lynda Edwards, a poll coordinator at the site said she noticed "a heavy Democratic turnout." She looked forward to transporting the microchip from the voting machines to the Police Department in Wainscott, she said.