It Happened To Me: I Voted For Bernie In NY But Poll Workers Tried To Turn Me Away

Statue of Liberty crying - NY primaries.
Featured image: Public Domain/Pixabay.

The NY Primary might be over but I have a feeling we will be hearing more and more about what went down over the weeks to come.

Just yesterday the NY City Board of Elections suspended their top official, Diane Haslett-Rudiano, who oversaw the B.O.E.’s Brooklyn office, effective immediately and without pay as they investigate the mysterious purge of 120,000+ Democratic voters from the borough’s rolls. This wreaked terrible havoc during Tuesday’s presidential primaries. Many of the already disenfranchised voters were turned away along with life-long Democrats. But the disappearance of 120,000 Democrats wasn’t the only way voters were suppressed during Tuesday’s Primary. No, there was also an easier way to keep people from voting…

I was having a pretty eventful week leading up to the Primary… I marched for Bernie… went to a comedy show to get the vote out for Bernie Sanders hosted by an acquaintance, Randy Credico, the man who screamed so loud NY’s Drug Laws change… met a personal hero of mine, Barry Crimmins, and got him to sign my copy of Never Shake Hands with A war Criminal…. I was pumped and ready to go. All I had left to do was cast my vote.

If voter suppression can happen in Arizona it can happen in NY, too.

I woke up at 5am on Tuesday. It was still dark out, but I wanted to get to my polling place in Queens when they opened at 6:00 am. It was my first time voting in this location and I didn’t really know what to expect…. I have voted in Tennessee, Ohio, and even from Austria and so far the only trouble I ever had was when my ballot for Barack Obama in 2008’s election was mailed back to me. You never know…. After stories about what happened in Arizona, I didn’t want to take my chances… so, the week before I had printed out my NY voter registration just in case there was to be any sign of trouble.

My polling place was under the elevated train tracks, tucked between two dive bars. There was a very tired looking man standing by the door. I wasn’t sure if he was there to vote or if he was just leaving the bar. Once inside, to the left, there was a large table with signs in Korean and Chinese all over it. Right across from this table was another one with signs written in what appeared to be one of India’s many languages. An old Asian man smiled and nodded at me. I just stood there for a moment, trying to soak it all it and make sense of it.

After five or so minutes, I was called over to the table with Indic-language signs where they asked for my name. So I gave it to them and asked if they needed proof. “Oh, no, sir, no!” a middle-aged Indian woman said to me. She started digging through one stack of papers… then another one. She asked me my name again. I repeated my name and spelled it. She rummaged through the papers again and then leaned over to her colleague, saying something in another language. The man looked at me and said,

“Sir, are you sure you are registered?”

I assured him I was. He whispered in the lady’s ear and then looked back at me.

“It’s not here, sir. You can’t vote.”

I assured them that I was indeed registered as a Democrat in the state of NY and they checked two other piles of papers. No, they repeated to me.

I was glad I had printed out my status that clearly indicated that I was registered. They looked through all the papers again and still said no. A knot formed at the bottom of my gut. What kind of Kafkaesque cluster fuck was this? I asked them how this could be, jabbing my finger into the printout. The man looked at the printout one more time and, as if a jolt of electricity went up his spine, he said:

“Oh, you’re at the wrong table… you need that table!”

But there was no way of knowing this since none of the tables were marked, at least not in English, and apparently this location was for many different districts, also not clearly marked. If I hadn’t stuck around and argued with them, I’m sure they would have just been happy to see me leave and never darken their doorstep again. Jesus. How many others had faced the same apathetic resistance and did simply leave? Are taxpayers who pay for these primaries being turned away simply due to poor training of the polling agents?

Make no mistake about it: Voter suppression goes deeper than just the purging of records in Brooklyn and the switching of party affiliation in Arizona. The Republicans want to make it more difficult for Everyday Citizens to vote, neoliberal Democrats don’t seem to care enough to stop them, and if we ignore this problem we are playing right into their game. Democrats and Independents alike need to unite and fight it. Together we can nip this problem in the bud so that it isn’t your vote being denied next time around.

Featured image: Public Domain/Pixabay.