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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Scenes From a Polling Station

So I went over to the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center a couple of hours ago to check out the situation Don Bluestone told me about. It was hectic – the room with the polling stations was mobbed and there was a line all the way down the hall to the front entrance of the center.

There had been problems with a machine earlier and some of the poll workers apparently didn’t show up, although that seemed to have been remedied by the time I got there. It was crazy busy but no one was complaining. In fact, most people I talked to, even those waiting in long lines, seemed to be exhilarated by all the goings on.

I took some pictures inside but two officers from the 52nd Precinct told me they had been informed by a superior that photos inside the polling station were not allowed. I called their supervisor, a lieutenant, and he asked me a few questions, and I told him that I would only take shots of people who gave me their permission. He said he’d find out more from the Board of Elections and he’d have to get back to me. A little later the officers came over to tell me the lieutenant called back and told them pictures were not allowed in the polling station. This goes on every year, and I’ve never been able to find out what the actual policy of the Board of Elections is. Maybe they don’t have one.

Still, I had photos from before I encountered the offices and from the hallway.

My favorite interview of the day was with a couple who were patiently waiting on line. They looked a little tired, but when I began asking the questions you could see they were incredibly energized and motivated.

They were making something of a date of the day. The man, Miguel Cintron, lived in Norwood and this was his polling station. But his girlfriend, Jessica Clemente, lives clear across the borough in Pelham Bay. So, after Cintron voted they were going to head over to Clemente’s neighborhood. “We’re going to rock the vote in two districts!” Cintron declared. (Hard not to enjoy being a reporter on a day like this.) Here's a picture I took of them as they waited in line.

Miguel Cintron and Jessica Clemente waiting on-line to vote at MMCC.

Earlier, Edgar Jordan, 46, a native of Guyana who has been here since he was 27, said he was worried about some votes not being counted, because the lights at the top of the polling booth weren’t flashing. But, later, I asked Councilman Oliver Koppell, who stopped by during a tour of polling stations in his district about this. And he said that the lights are only used during primaries. Each colored light stands for a different party, so when a Republican goes to vote, for example, the booth allows votes in the Republican primary when the appropriate light is lit. Edgar gave me his e-mail address. I’ll have to let him know what I found out. Here's Edgar ...

Edgar Jordan after voting at MMCC polling station in Norwood.

Speaking of Koppell, who launched his career in politics in 1971 in the state Assembly, he told me that this was the highest turnout he had seen. “I’ve been active in politics for over 40 years and I’ve never seen turnout like this today,” said Koppell, 67. He said he had just been to PS 16 in Wakefield, a largely African American community, and the “lines were unbelievable.”

Koppell said the last significant turnout he remembers was when David Dinkins was elected mayor in 1989 but that this far surpassed that.

Koppell said there seemed to be problems all around with inspectors – there weren’t enough of them at many polling sites, he said. And he said there were problems with some of the machines up in Woodlawn.

Councilman Oliver Koppell at MMCC during a tour of polling sites in his district.

Andrew Laiosa, a long-time neighborhood activist and member of the community board, was participating as a poll worker for the first time. “I wanted to be a part of history,” he said. “Look at this place! Usually this place is dead.”

Andrew Laiosa, long-time Norwood resident and community activist took
on an added responsibility as a poll worker today as did ...

Another community stalwart, Denise Sullivan, who has long taught local children to dance and is now a vice president of Community Education Council 10 was also a poll worker at the site.

... Denise Sullivan

And my favorite photo of the day... All these nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, based at the convent near St. Ann’s Church on Bainbridge Avenue, turned out en masse to vote.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in the lobby of MMCC after they voted.


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