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Machines malfunction at some New York City polls

Some voters who arrived to cast their ballots in the New York City primary elections ran into trouble Tuesday when the old-style 1960s lever machines malfunctioned at polling places in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, election officials said.

Paper ballots became the method of last-resort when those machines broke down, as the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, Mike Ryan, vowed to get the problems rectified as soon as possible.

Ryan arrived at Congregation Mount Sinai at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, early Tuesday to find lever machines not working. "Three of the four machines were out here at various points throughout the morning," Ryan told Newsday soon after his arrival at about 10 a.m., adding: "Two of them have been repaired. A third one was attempted to be repaired and we're waiting for delivery of a replacement machine."

Ryan noted there had been breakdowns at other polling locations and said there also had been a setup problem that delayed the start of voting at Central Synagogue on West 55th Street in Manhattan.

In that instance, Ryan said, machines could not be delivered on Thursday or Friday, because of the Jewish holiday -- making it one of 16 sites that were to receive deliveries and setups on Monday. The six machines at Central were not delivered until 6 a.m. Tuesday, however, and the site didn't go live until 7:35 a.m.

"So it was an hour [and] 35 minutes of down time at the start of the day, which we strive for 100 percent success in terms of our delivery," Ryan said. "So I make no excuses.

"It's unacceptable."

In characterizing the machine issues, Ryan said the board had received "spotty complaints" and said it was "certainly not a massive system failure." But, he said officials were "roving around the city" in an attempt to hit high-volume areas and make sure the system was working.

"I'll get to the bottom of it," he said, "and we'll work to make sure that this does not happen again in the runoff, if there is one, or certainly in the general [election]."

Some voters, however, liked the old-style machines.

One, Carl Friedberg of Manhattan, voted at Leadership and Public Service High School, 90 Trinity Place in Manhattan -- calling it his best trip to the polls in a long time.

"They were very friendly," Friedberg said. "No line at all. The good old voting machine worked perfectly. I was in and out in about one minute total, including the sign-in. And that gave me time to check my choices twice . . . I am not looking forward to that crappy e-system," he added, which returns for the general election.

Emergency ballots and affidavit ballots cast at polling sites will be counted Tuesday evening as part of the process as distinguished from military and other absentee ballots, Ryan told Newsday. He said military and absentee ballots will be counted at a later date.

On Tuesday morning, the New York Public Interest Research Group Inc. and Common Cause / NY announced a nonpartisan voter helpline for Primary Day. Voters can call 212-822-0282 for information on poll locations, voting rights and to report problems, the organizations said.

With staff reports

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