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'Unprecedented' primary day brought out 27K voters and all kinds of issues

Berkeley Brean
Updated: June 24, 2020 08:44 PM
Created: June 24, 2020 06:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — More than 27,000 people voted in person in Monroe County in yesterday's primaries.

Wednesday News10NBC is tracking some of the problems some of those voters had. Problems like overcrowding, wrong ballots, and confusion over absentee ballots. 

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"We were lined up on this door right here and the line literally wrapped from in the parking lot over here all the way up that ramp," Tiffany Walters told me as she pointed towards the church on Brooks Avenue where she voted. 

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, several polling places were consolidated into the church location. Walters says she was told 11 polling sites converged into the church.

Walters says it took her an hour to vote and she took photos showing a crowded hallway into the voting room. 

Walters: "As a local business owner I feel a little offended because my business wouldn't be able to operate right now if I didn't have a plan on how I was going to prevent or lessen the exposure of COVID to my clients or customers."

Wednesday, the Monroe County Board of Elections commissioners released a statement saying it was "responsible for conducting three elections simultaneously." And COVID-19 forced "consolidated polling locations, additional training... and the patience of those who exercised their right to vote in person."

I asked the state board of elections about the crowding problem. 

John Conklin, NYS Board of Elections: "If the situation was the same in November, obviously we will take a lot of lessons from yesterday and we will implement them for the November election."

Brean: "Like adding more polling places."

Conklin: "Well there will definitely be more polling places because in a general election you have every polling place you use."

And then there is the problem with wrong ballots. 

I as first told you Tuesday night, some Democratic voters on the north side of the city, got handed a ballot for the 55th Senate District where Rich Funke serves even though they live in the 56th District with Joe Robach. The mix up prevented some of them from voting in that Democratic primary race. 

Assemblyman Harry Bronson, who is leading in his primary race, told me similar stories. 

Harry Bronson, (D) New York State Assembly 138th: "We have one example where two people live in the same household, the same building, one of them voted in my race. One of them voted in the 137th Assembly district."

Tuesday night the Monroe County Board of Elections commissioners said they investigated every complaint they got seriously. Their statement said they "isolated incidents of human error were found and corrected."

"This is the state one, not filled in," Lauren Sample said standing outside the same church with Tiffany Walters. 

Sample was one of 116,993 people in Monroe County to request an absentee ballot. 

For her, it was a safety measure because of COVID. 

But Sample decided to vote in person yesterday. When she signed in, that's when a red flag came up. Actually—a red square. And it appeared on the tablet the election volunteer had to sign Sample in. 

"There was a red square that popped up on it that was a pretty significant size," Sample said. She recalled it said "absentee ballot received," as if she already voted. 

Sample said she did not vote absentee ballot and she got a receipt that let her vote in person. 

"At first I was afraid they weren't going to let me vote and now in hindsight, I want to know how they make sure people do not vote twice?" she said. 

The state board of elections says election law allows for people to get an absentee ballot, fill it out, mail it in and still vote in person on Election Day. The double vote is caught when they start counting the absentee ballots.

Conklin: "There's a signature on the envelope. The signature matches the signature in the record. And then we go to the poll book to make sure the voter didn't come and vote in person. And if they did then the absentee ballot is set aside and not counted."

The Board of Elections' Acting Commissioner will share more information at a press conference Thursday afternoon.


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