New York, Kentucky Voters Face Hurdles From Long Lines to Ballot Mix-Ups

Voters in New York and Kentucky appeared to face hurdles in casting their ballots on Tuesday, as residents struggled with failing to receive absentee ballots, while also facing long lines and ballot issues at the polls.

In Kentucky, where both Republicans and Democrats had vied to unseat House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voters faced long lines largely due to limited in-person polling locations as a result of coronavirus safety measures, despite bipartisan efforts to expand access.

In Louisville, some voters claimed to have missed the 6 p.m. deadline to cast their ballots due to long waiting times to park their cars outside the Kentucky Exposition Center, the only polling station open in Louisville and Jefferson County due to coronavirus safety measures.

Video posted to social media showed voters banging on the doors of the center after they were shut once the deadline passed.

An effort from multiple campaign teams to secure injunctions to keep the polling site open until 9 p.m. was not successful. However, a local judge was able to extend the deadline to 6:30 p.m., allowing some voters to cast their ballots, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Sharing a video appearing to show voters eventually being allowed into the center, Alabama Political Reporter journalist Josh Moon branded the incident "voter suppression," writing: "If you're not outraged by the blatant voter suppression (the massive reduction in polling locations + locking the doors on people in line) that took place in Kentucky, you don't deserve to live in America."

In New York, Twitter was alight with accounts of voters waiting for hours to cast their ballots, with some saying they had never received their absentee ballots, while those who made it to the polls complained that of long lines and, in some cases, only being given half the form to fill out.

Voters in both New York and Kentucky had been encouraged to send mail-in ballots in order to avoid crowds at polling stations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

However, as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who appeared to come away with a major lead in her own race on Tuesday, pointed out earlier in the day, the U.S. Postal Service had warned that some voters who requested absentee ballots would "likely not receive them in time."

Telling voters they could still cast their ballots in person, Ocasio-Cortez said the news was still "deeply upsetting and reflects the need to make voting dramatically more accessible."

For some candidates in New York, the alternative of in-person voting offered little consolation, with at least two Democratic candidates alleging that voters were being sent to cast their votes with incomplete ballot forms.

One candidate, New York State Assembly Member Ron Kim, told local news platform Patch that his own parents struggled to vote for him because they were not given both pages of their ballot, with one page being dedicated to the presidential primary race and the other for local races.

He said that when his parents complained, a poll site supervisor said she was just following orders from the Board of Elections (BOE), which Kim said in a tweet he would contact for more information.

"Unfortunately, it seems like many of our voters only received one ballot today and were not able to vote in the local elections," Kim said. "We will follow up on this with@BOENYC. For now, if you can, please go vote," he said.

With several polling stations reportedly seeing ballots missing a second page, Kim told Patch he felt that "it seems like there's some kind of coordinated effort to suppress the voters."

Ethan Felder, a Democratic candidate for district leader in Forest Hills, Queens shared similar concerns, asserting that voters in Forest Hills at one polling station were not being given two ballots.

"VOTER SUPPRESSION," Felder wrote in a tweet, describing the situation.

He said that a poll site coordinator had agreed "this is wrong," but refused to call the BOE about the situation.

Meanwhile, according to CBS2, some residents in Upper Manhattan said they had received a polling site change notice in the mail on Monday, giving less than 24 hours notice to inform them that their designated polling site had moved. Others said their polling stations had opened late.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, told Reuters she was aware of complaints of voters being given incomplete ballots and of a number of polling stations opening late.

Newsweek has contacted Common Cause New York and the New York Board of Elections for comment.

In a statement sent to CBS2, however, the BOE suggested it was aware of issues at polling stations, though it is not clear which ones.

"As instances were brought to our attention the Board took immediate remedial action," the BOE said in a statement to the broadcaster. "We sent out numerous communication to the poll workers reiterating their training and sent out teams to sites to ensure that both pages were distributed to voters."

Despite the issues faced in both states, Tuesday's primary elections appeared to go more smoothly than earlier contests, with states continuing to grapple with the fresh challenges the coronavirus pandemic poses to the election process.

Brooklyn vote
Voters stand in line to vote at the Brooklyn Museum polling site during the New York Democratic presidential primary elections on June 23, 2020 in New York City. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

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