Voters lined up at the Hamilton Heights Terrace apartments polling place. (Photo by Trevor Bach)

On West 150th St, police restricted entry to the polling station at Hamilton Heights Terrace where restless voters grumbled about delays from jammed ballot scanners. “It’s an exercise in futility,” said Andre Jonathan, stepping out of a winding line. Voting inspectors didn’t show; miscommunication sent voters to incorrect lines. Even the arrows pointing the way to the station were confusing, some said. And it was cold.

Despite some malfunctioning machines, long lines and bewildered poll workers—much of the confusion apparently caused by additional voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy—uptown voters cast their ballots today.

Denise Hall, 58, waited in line for an hour at PS 43/172 on West 129th Street to cast her vote. Because she’s handicapped, she got through the line faster, she said. “I hope it goes the way I voted,” she said, not wanting to disclose her preference.

Describing her poll site as “disorganized,” Hall noticed a few grumbles and minor disputes, but she was happy to know so many came out to vote.  “This is something you can do,” she added.

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That’s what Gov. Andrew Cuomo probably had in mind when he signed an executive order allowing voters uprooted by Sandy to cast provisional ballots at any polling station in the state. “Just because you’re displaced doesn’t mean you should be disenfranchised,” Cuomo said yesterday.

Patricia Post, who was evacuated from her Lower East Side home, cast her ballot in Washington Heights where she’s staying in a shelter. Disappointed with President Barack Obama’s response to the hurricane, she planned to vote Romney. “If he were a great president, he would have parachuted in or done something really fabulous to show us he really cared,” said Post, who will be moved to a new shelter Wednesday.

This year’s bustling stations, said poll workers, were a result of added voters displaced by Sandy. Darlene Pierre, a poll inspector at an apartment complex on West 135th Street, said roughly 700 people had cast ballots in the first four hours.

Mark Silver, who lives in Chelsea, volunteered at PS 52 with Election Protection, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, and spent more than seven hours looking up the right polling places, helping people vote by affidavit and assisting with language and disability issues.

While both the mayor and governor announced that New Yorkers could vote anywhere because of the effects of the storm, “that’s only by affidavit,” Silver said.  “It has to be verified later that they are who they say they are, and that they are registered and they can vote, and it takes a lot of time.” Most affidavits get counted eventually, “but there is a lower chance that their vote gets counted because of that.”

Voters also grappled with a new obstacle: a text message that sent waves of panic through Obama supporters. Regina Blake, a 52-year-old Harlem resident, wanted to vote the straight Democratic ticket, top to bottom. But she received a text, now gone viral, warning her against pressing buttons out of order. “In the event that you are planning to vote Democrat on November 6, do not select the button ‘all democrats’ first because Barack Obama will be excluded from the vote,” the message said. “However, if we choose ‘Barack Obama’ first and then ‘all democrats’, he will earn our votes.”

Blake emerged from the booth victorious: “I voted the right way.”

But an Obama volunteer who chose not to be identified reassured Blake her vote would be counted anyway. “It’s a false rumor,” he said. “I hope they can track the IP address and we find out. They are trying to confuse people, and get them not to vote what they want.”

Across polling stations, there were typical complaints about malfunctioning machines and slow lines. In Inwood’s PS 98, electronic voting machines malfunctioned for more than two hours during heavy morning turnout, forcing poll workers to resort to paper ballots.

“Took me about fifteen minutes to vote, that’s not a bad waiting period,” said State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who will be watching the returns at Buddha Beer Bar in Washington Heights.  But other voters there reported wait times between 45 minutes and an hour.

“I had to leave,” said Erik Cummings, visibly annoyed as he left the poll at Hamilton Heights Terrace and hurriedly walked along Amsterdam Avenue. “I can’t stay there all day. It’s ridiculous.”

Other voters also gave up, milling around a bit and then leaving. Ken Rogola returned his ballot at the station, presumably to vote elsewhere, because he was concerned that no one asked him for ID. A poll worker claimed she’d remember if someone voted twice, Rogola said. “I’m like how the hell are you going to know?” he said. “You can get on line four different times.”

Assistant to the station coordinator Angel Cotas, a 12-year veteran of the process, expected flak. “People are going to say fraud and all that s–t, but we’re trying to do our best.”

But just down the block, at PS 153 on the corner of West 147th St, voting was mostly a breeze. Irma Wright was in and out in 20 minutes, she said. “Hopefully all the excitement is tonight when they say Obama’s in again, right?” she said.

Among the few uptown Republicans, Martin Chicon, running against incumbent Adriano Espaillat for State Senate in the 31st District, cast his vote at PS 176 in Inwood.

“I did vote for Romney,” Chicon said, citing jobs as an important problem facing the country. “I think we can do better with our employment situation. Nationally we’re at 7.9, officially. I think walking around here, it’s more like 15%. I have never seen it this bad.”

While Chicon wasn’t able to secure the Independence Party endorsement, he still hopes members turn out in large numbers to support him, as well as the estimated 20,000 Republicans registered in his district.

Delmar Thompson, an independent, had another view. Asked why he voted for Obama, he simply said, “It’s self-evident, I’m black – that’s enough right there.”

Karina Muñoz, 29-year-old veterinary technician who’s been a registered Republican since she was 18, had a last minute change of heart.  “We’ve seen these two men bicker and go at it for the past year over change and their philosophies but we never see anything done,” she said.

Leaving the booth, however, Muñoz disclosed that for the first time in her life, she’d cast a vote for a Democrat. “Honestly, I’m just thinking I’m going to give Obama a chance, see what he does,” she said.

Uptown voters share their stories.

Written by Mansi Choksi, with reporting by Trevor Bach, Charles Eichacker, Sandra E. Garcia, Alvaro Guzman Bastida, Andres David Lopez, Anjli Parrin, Yue Qiu, Hollie Slade, Elizabeth Stuart, Jacob Weis and Kaitlyn Wells.


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