De Blasio calls on Board of Elections to 'step up' as long lines plague early voting

Lincoln Center early voting
Voters wait to vote during the in-person early voting outside a polling station in Lincoln Center in New York, the United States, Oct. 24, 2020. Photo credit Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — More than 193,000 people have already voted in New York City, waiting in lines for hours this weekend to cast their ballot in person in the presidential election.

There were more lines Monday morning as early voting entered a third day in the city.

WCBS 880's Marla Diamond visited three polling sites Monday morning where voters reported waiting at least 2 hours to cast their ballots.

At Lincoln Center, where it took some more than four hours to vote over the weekend, the wet weather did not dampen the turnout.

One woman arrived an hour before the polls opened after facing "incomprehensible" lines when she showed up twice to cast her vote over the weekend.

One Upper West Side resident said he wanted to show up in person to make his voice heard.

"There's very little you can do about what's going on around you so this is the one thing we can all do and we're doing it," he said.

While lines were long, John Conklin with the Board of Elections said there were few, if any, technical difficulties across the state.

"There haven't been a lot of technical issues, you know, break downs of machines or anything like that to stop the lines from moving, so people have been coming dropping off absentee ballots in the ballot boxes as well but for the most part I think it's more that there's some enthusiasm driving turnout so people are coming out and I think that's largely been what has brought about the lines," Conklin said.

But there was some finger pointing going around as early voting lines snaked around buildings and stretched across city blocks this weekend.

Council Member Ben Kallos believes there aren't enough voting sites in th city to handle early voting.

Kallos said state law mandates a certain number of early voting sites in any county and that the number is not at all tied to population density in that county, which led to the multi-hour waits this weekend.

Kallos said Manhattan’s 16 early voting sites work out to about 100,000 people per site. “No wonder there were such long lines,” he said. “New York state must update the early voting law to require early voting sites for specific numbers of people."

Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on the Board of Elections to increase the number of voting machines and ensure staff is available at early voting sites to help people vote quickly and efficiently.

"The Board of Elections was clearly not prepared for this kind of turnout and needs to make adjustments immediately to be able to support all the New Yorkers who want to take part in the democratic process," de Blasio said Monday. "We need this to be a better experience. Long lines tell people to go home, that's just the reality. Long lines at a poll site discourage voting, they don't encourage it."

He said there are voting machines reserved for Election Day which should be brought out now to support early voting and the hours for weekend voting, which are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., should be expanded.

"The Board of Elections needs to step up. This is a historic moment, they need to act like it's a historic moment," de Blasio added. "The solutions are staring us right in the face."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was blunt in his criticism of the New York City Board of Elections, saying they "blew it."

"I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job and it's not the first time," Cuomo said Monday. "I think I would be open to an entire redesign of the New York City Board of Elections system."

New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said the state provided $9 million in additional funding to the city for early voting.

"But every election — primary, general — the New York City Board of Elections has a different excuse for their management failures," Mujica said. "The state did provide additional funding, they failed again, as they do on a regular basis."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who waited in line for 90 minutes to cast her ballot in the Bronx on Sunday morning, called hourslong wait times at many polling locations unacceptable and a form of voter suppression.

Early voting continues until Nov. 1.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted that more than 2.5 million people have already cast their votes, surpassing the 63% voter turnout in 2016.