Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tim Robbins Faces Mix-Up at Polling Place

New York Times, By Nicholas Confessore AND Sewell Chan, 11/4/2008

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins attended an April screening in Los Angeles for “Speed Racer.” (Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images)Updated, 4:42 p.m. | The actor Tim Robbins looked dejected and annoyed around 10:30 a.m. on Election Day, as he was sitting in a folding chair at the McBurney YMCA at 125 West 14th Street, one of the more than 1,300 polling places throughout New York City.

Mr. Robbins said that he had been surprised and dismayed to learn that he was not in the voter lists that are printed and bound before the election. “The issue is that they removed my name from the voting rolls,” he said. “My name was there for the primaries.”

Mr. Robbins expressed frustration. “The poll workers here know me,” he said. “I’ve been voting here 15 years.” He said the poll worker remembered seeing his name on the list during the primary.

Mr. Robbins, 50, is a New York City native and has voted at the same polling place since 1997. He and his longtime partner, the actress Susan Sarandon, have long been active in liberal causes and have urged voters to fight against disenfranchisement.

What happened to Mr. Robbins was similar to a scenario he described on an appearance on the HBO talk show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” on Oct. 24.

On that program, Mr. Robbins urged people to insist on their right to vote:

Refuse provisional ballots. They’re throwing those out. They can throw those out. If that’s your last resort, take it, but fight in the polling place to vote. It’s your right as an American. You have every right to vote if you’re registered. And if you’re not on the rolls and something went wrong, document it. Video cameras at polls are going to be an effective way to fight this election day.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Robbins appeared to be acting out his own advice.

At one point, a poll worker who tried to get the insistent Mr. Robbins to move mentioned calling over a police officer, and the actor responded, “Is this some kind of intimidation? I’m taking this as intimidation.” He added that he was prepared to be arrested, if necessary.

It did not get to that. Mr. Robbins was offered the chance to fill out an affidavit ballot. He filled it out, but did not submit it, and instead insisting on speaking to an official from the city’s Board of Elections, who informed him that he could go to the board’s Manhattan office, at 200 Varick Street, near West Houston Street. There, board officials verified that Mr. Robbins was indeed a properly registered voter, in the board’s database.

Paul G. Feinman, a State Supreme Court judge who was standing by to hear challenges from voters denied access to the polls, ruled that the board had to allow Mr. Robbins to vote. As of 1 p.m., Mr. Robbins was making his way back to the McBurney YMCA to cast his ballot.

Mr. Robbins said he “never in a million years” imagined that he would be asked to fill out an affidavit ballot. He does not trust provisional ballots, he said, because of research by Mark Crispin Miller and other scholars who have showed that such ballots are sometimes lost or discarded.

“Do the math on this one,” Mr. Robbins said, adding that a poll worker had told him 40 voters at the same polling site had had the same problem — with no apparent explanation. “It bears looking into that this might be a random elimination” of voters from the rolls, he said.

Indeed, voter registration records confirm that Mr. Robbins, a Democrat, has been a longtime registered voter in good standing, having voted in the November elections in 2004 and 2006. (He did not vote in this year’s presidential primary.)

“I have the time and luxury to do this,” he said of his four-hour ordeal to vote. “If this is a systemic thing, what does that mean for the country?”

Mr. Robbins said he did not suspect anything “nefarious” in his case, noting that his partner, Ms. Sarandon, who is also politically active, did not encounter any voting problems.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Valeria Vazquez Rivera, a spokeswoman for the city’s Board of Elections, said that Mr. Robbins actually had two registrations on file — one under the name Tim Robbins and the other under the name Timothy Robbins — with two different addresses, one of them outdated. The duplicate record appeared to have been the cause of the mix-up involving Mr. Robbins.

Apart from mix-ups like the one Mr. Robbins encountered, city election official have acknowledged that many voters — up to 30,000 in New York State, by some estimates — had been removed from the voter rolls. Officials at the city’s Board of Elections said the names were removed only after the voters failed to verify their residence. Mr. Robbins did not appear to have been one of the affected voters.

Mr. Robbins was hardly the only voter to go to the Board of Elections office at 200 Varick Street to assert their right to vote.

The office opened at 7 a.m., and people began arriving right away. Many of them were headed for a room on the 10th floor, where two judges and three referees — along with clerks and court stenographers — were prepared to hear people requesting court orders allowing them to vote.

Dozens of people showed up over the first few hours. Some had problems with flawed registrations. Some insisted that they had registered properly but were told at a polling place that their name was not on the voting rolls. Officials said that many of the people on the 10th floor were there because they had signed up to vote with the organization Rock the Vote, but their registration had somehow gone astray.

Among them was Christopher Ross, 29, from the Lower East Side. He said he had been told earlier that morning that his name didn’t appear on the voting list, and decided to ask for a court order
instead of using a provisional ballot, which he called “very unreliable.”

After a brief wait, Mr. Ross sat at a long table facing a referee and a clerk. He was sworn in and stated his name. After showing documentation that he had indeed registered with Rock the Vote before the states dead line, he was given a signed and stamped letter authorizing him to return to the Lower East Side and cast his ballot.

Some people, like Jeff Blum, 26, from the East Village, said that they had sought a court order because this election was particularly significant. “I’d like to be a part of this,” he said. “Fifty years down the line it’d be pretty awesome to say I voted for the first black president.”

And then there was Krystal Kaplan, 28, who entered a voting booth in Washington Heights, pulled a lever to the left to rest the machine, then pulled it to the right to register her vote — only to realize she hadn’t voted. “It’s so embarrassing,” adding by way of explanation that the mishap had taken place at 6:30 a.m., before she had a chance to sip any coffee.

So, she chose to travel downtown and back so she could have another try. At this time she said, she would get it right. “My vote count,” she said. “My vote could be the vote that makes the difference.”

Colin Moynihan and Mekado Murphy contributed reporting.
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1. November 4, 2008
1:21 pm

This happened to me as well this morning at my polling place. Although I have voted there in the recent primaries, and several previous elections, I was no longer in the voter lists. I too found myself having to cast an affidavit ballot.

Later investigation has revealed that between this past February and now my voter registration had been mysteriously changed to be associated with an address that was last valid in the spring of 2002!! What database can the Board of Elections possibly be checking against?

— khw

2. November 4, 2008
1:36 pm

Maybe if Bloomberg released the $20 million for the Board of Elections they might have a modernized computer system. Just a thought. After all, why modernize elections here when we are so proud of having the most arcane voting machines in America?

— Steven M.

3. November 4, 2008
1:37 pm

Can we improve on our very archaic system of voter registration and methods of voting in our country? How can someone who has lived and voted at the same address for twenty years be dropped from the voting rolls? We hear all the time that we need to increase voter participation in our country and should do everything possible to make this process accurate and easy. How many elderly Americans have walked away from the long lines? How many young mothers and small business owners who cannot spend hours voting have walked away from the lines? We are supposed to be an example to the world but our voting problems persist year after year.


4. November 4, 2008
2:02 pm

I am taking my first break from working at my poll site. It was an overwhelming madhouse this am. The worst of it was being abused and assailed by people like Mr. Robbins ( the bullies are invariably the large men, who yell at the top of their lungs that we’re a bunch of Nazis). Don’t they know we are their neighbors? We are practically volunteers, doing this as best as we can. I implore Mr. Robbins to sign up to work the polls next time. He deserves it.

— Hilary

5. November 4, 2008
2:07 pm

The polls were all chaotic this morning. I voted in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, 51 District, there was a stupid pre-sign-in line, before waiting in the “real line.”

We’re so proud of Democratic values, how can we bring “Democracy” to underdeveloped areas, when we can’t get it right in NYC!!!

“Get out the Vote” means vote, not to remove it from the process!


— Doc Holliday

6. November 4, 2008
2:07 pm

It is quite incredible and outragious - voting in the United States seems to be an arcane process! I live in Germany and have NEVER ever heard of anyone having been removed from the voter registration - in fact if you move your registration gets transferred automatically and instantly, nor have I ever waited more than five minutes to get to the ballot. Is it possible that the country that claims democratic leadership around the world is under some plot to keep its citizens from casting their ballots?

— Gesa P

7. November 4, 2008
2:09 pm

And now the Academy Award for most easily riled, self-aggrandizing, impatient, and verbally bellicose voter goes to…

— Mike

8. November 4, 2008
2:11 pm

People that registered on time, but at the last minute (myself), were not put into the system. There are approximately 200,000 people this happened to according to the NYC board of elections representative i spoke to. I called on friday to check on the status of my registration and was told that “due to the backlog, they wouldn’t have time to enter everyone in the system”. When i asked the extent of the problem, i was told 200,000 people. I don’t understand 1) how this could happen and 2) how the NYT could not think this warrented a story. I called the city room at the New York Times on Friday to report this problem. The editor(s) didn’t think it warranted a call back nor a story. In short, i was forced to fill out a provisional ballot.

— Beth

9. November 4, 2008
2:13 pm

Fixing a problem like this is so low on our list of priorities - roughly between legalizing industrial hemp production and reexamining bicycle helmet laws. Of course there should be a national standard for registering voters, and compatible rolls! Of course we should change this silly, outdated system of asking 100 million people to vote between 7 am and 7pm on a single day! Unfortunately, things that seem to be obvious and easily remediable drag on for years and years before some congressman or judge takes a modicum of initiative.


10. November 4, 2008
2:14 pm

It is the nature of a bureaucracy to exhibit lameness, and then to hide it or explain it away as non-systemic. How amusing that this particular stupidity on the part of this particular system victimized one of the few people with the time, energy, resources and inclination to fight it.

But, yeah… how many of us who needed to get on to work have the time for this silliness?

Mr Robbins may not see anything nefarious, but many may, who remember recent voter-rolls shenanigans in Florida and Virginia, and less recent chicanery courtesy Tammany Hall.

— Jason Rohrer

11. November 4, 2008
2:20 pm

My name was mysteriously missing from the rolls in NYC as well. I’ve voted at the same site before, but this time my name was not on the list.

I was really disappointed to have to cast an affidavit ballot, but I couldn’t afford to miss anymore time at work today.

— Abby

12. November 4, 2008
2:27 pm

I don’t agree that Tim Robbins was inappropriate (for those above that feel that way). I too am incredibly angry… this shouldn’t happen. Especially in NYC. I would have created the same kind of scene had i known ahead of time that it might have made a difference.

— Beth

13. November 4, 2008
2:32 pm


Your disdain for your fellow citizens and their rights speaks volumes. Instead of being concerned that people are being disenfranchised, you are feeling sorry for yourself. I have worked the polls. My advice is stay home next time. Your attitude is not a help. Every individual’s vote is sacred and should be treated that way!

— Cyndy

14. November 4, 2008
2:32 pm

I too had to cast a provisional ballot after being bumped off the rolls of where I’d voted since 2001. It was really weird and disappointing.

— Ned Massey

15. November 4, 2008
2:33 pm

He hasnt moved in 15 years and he always voted at that location. There’s no logical reason why his registration was missing. I dont blame him at all for being annoyed.

— B Clenderson

16. November 4, 2008
2:36 pm

I’ve been voting by mail for twenty years without incident. It’s lovely. I don’t know if my vote gets counted,but then, neither do you… ;-) Z

— Deano

17. November 4, 2008
2:38 pm

Same thing happened to me in the 2000 Presidential election. When I called the next day, I was told that I was deleted because the sample ballot came back as undeliverable. Like Mr. Robbins, my wife was not deleted.

— Rick

18. November 4, 2008
2:38 pm

Robbins was absolutely correct in what he did.

Perhaps the ‘practically volunteers’ should be instructed better.

Perhaps the Board Of Elections in NYC can conduct itself without legendary screw-ups.

If someone tried to take away my right to vote (one of the few powers left to us in this Age of Cheney), I’d do the same thing.

— Steve G

19. November 4, 2008
2:38 pm

This is the United States in the 21st century–it is astounding (and extremely sad) that it is still this difficult to cast your vote.

I know this has already been well-publicized in the Times and elsewhere, but if anyone has any problems at the polls today call Election Protection at:


The organization is nonpartisan and they have tons of lawyers on the other line waiting to help you.

— Stephen

20. November 4, 2008
2:39 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to say Robbins was being needlessly aggressive or a pain to bring attention to this and to get his own case resolved. It’s great that he took the time to address it and call attention to it. It’s nothing against the poll workers who should be much better paid and prepared - obviously it’s a deeply-rooted systemic back office problem. We should beyond bureaucratic fixes to same-day registration, weekend elections etc. designed to bring people in rather than keep them out.

— Jon

21. November 4, 2008
2:42 pm

In a way, I’m glad it happened to him, so people can see it’s real, and not just paranoia, and so his case can highlight the hundreds who turn away or just give up. It is such an important election, and every vote does count!

— Liat

22. November 4, 2008
2:44 pm

This mixup is unfortunately common with the NYC Board of Elections. It is the most incompetent city agency. In my case, the Board confused me and my father - we both have the same name.

My dad used to live and vote in Boerum Hill. He moved upstate about ten years ago and canceled his ballot in the city. In 2001 I registered to vote in NYC. I got my registration card in the mail so I thought everything was ok. I go to vote in Nov and my name wasn’t in the book, so I voted affidavit. Afterward I filled out another card and hoped the Board would change my registration. I would have vote affidavit for the two election years afterward.

What the Board of Elections did is assume my father was re-registering when they received my voter registration. Although we have two different address and we spell our names two different ways, they still assumed it was the same person. This is probably what happened to Tim Robbins - they got him and some other guy with the same name confused and dropped him from the register.

The BoE is an embarrassment and must be totally reformed ASAP.

— CandyKane

23. November 4, 2008
2:44 pm

It really is incredible how we’re still using those old lever machines. It’s no wonder they breakdown so often. They must be ancient. Where are we? Some third world country? And why does every state do this differently?

I had a problem at the polls as well. The man above me on the list had had his poll number written in my square in the preprinted book (a clerical error) by one of the poll workers. They assured me that there wouldn’t be a problem with my vote as they scribbled notes and drew lines indicating my actual number. I’m not so sure.

— Tom in Chelsea

24. November 4, 2008
2:46 pm

I worked the primaries and saw this happen multiple times to people. I’m not sure how this is even possible but New York needs to figure out what the problem is and fix it! I agree with Mr. Robbins in trusting whether paper votes are even counted. Come on NYC! We’re better than this!

— Rebekah

25. November 4, 2008
2:49 pm

america, america you are continuing on the road to banana republicanism….

26. November 4, 2008
2:50 pm

How can we justify this sorry example of a democratic process? Could it be because we’ve never truly believed in the democratic process at all? We certainly don’t accept the results of other democratically arrived at elections or decisions UNLESS they go the way we want. Thus we helped overthrow many a democratically elected head of state and turn a blind eye to the dictatorships that side with us. Still… I say, “Go Vote!” A democratically elected government is still a magnificent goal.

— Steven Young

27. November 4, 2008
2:51 pm

Everyone talks about these problems and nothing every really gets changed. YES we need to vote with a pencil and paper. Enough of this garbage with problems with the electronic voting machines! They are too easy to tamper with. When I walk away, there is no guarantee that my vote registered the way I wanted it to.

We also need to get rid of the ridiculous electoral college. All it does is make someone’s vote in Florida more important than someone’s vote in New York. It’s the 21st century and the reasons for the electoral college do not exist anymore. Let’s be done with it and count the popular vote and end all these games that political operatives play with votes in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, etc.

And let’s not wait another 3 1/2 years to revisit these problems.

— Stephanie

28. November 4, 2008
2:51 pm


The reason your German voter registration is transferred automatically when you move is that in Germany you have to register with the government wherever you go. Americans have a long tradition of rejecting such governmental intrusion (although that, like many other proud traditions here recently, has been suffering as of late).

Yes, voter registration in the States could be improved. But there is no list of residents in every nook and cranny of our country like there is in Germany, so that makes it harder.

If you want to criticize, fine. Much criticism against the States is deserved. Just know what you’re talking about first.

— David Mebane

29. November 4, 2008
2:51 pm

The same thing happened to me today, and I’ve voted here several times. I’m really not happy, especially after having a few years in which I could not vote because I never received absentee ballots, one year that the archaic voting machine didn’t actually work, and some experience canvassing in PA and OH where every single minority (Democrats) that I spoke with had been given misinformation about voting.

— Sarah

30. November 4, 2008
2:52 pm


I’m sure Tim Robbins - and every other voter who has mistreated you today - means no ill will by it. The problem is not you, the volunteers, but is a much larger one–the entire system itself. It is 2008 - why are we even using these antequated polling machines? Why aren’t voter registration cards linked to one central database rather than having the poor volunteers sift through binders of information?

I applaud Mr. Robbins for bringing attention to this issue; as he mentions in the article, he has the time & luxury to spend hours fixing the situation. Many others would be forced to give up and return to work, having wasted their valuable time and energies

Recognize that you & other volunteers are, unforutnately, the recipient of people’s frustration today as there continue to be issues en masse in dealing with this broken system…after said voters have already waited on line for hours.

Message to Obama: Would it be possible to revamp our voting system?

Finally - thank you for volunteering, Hilary. That is probably something that we, the disgruntled voters, don’t always remember to say.

— Laura

31. November 4, 2008
2:52 pm

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. US voting systems are about on par with those in, say…Oh, I don’t know…Eastern Europe? Most of Africa? It’s the richest country in the world and supposedly the model democracy, yet one of the basic guarantors of democracy, a functioning and reliable voting system with functioning and reliable checks, doesn’t exist. It’s a disgrace. Oh, and by functioning I also mean that your wait at the polls should be at most half an hour, absolute max. Here in Finland, where I live as a US expat, it takes about 5 minutes to vote. No matter how large the turnout is. Im dumbfounded watching the news here with coverage of the lines, folks - the US is looking an awful lot like a third-world country. Who knows? 700 billion could maybe even buy functioning voting technology.

— Kristian

32. November 4, 2008
2:53 pm

Go, Tim!
For those who criticize “those pesky Hollywood celebrities” we say: Tim Robbins has been speaking out long before the Idiot Prince was crowned way back when. Just a question: What have you been doing - Mike - #7?

If you are not part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem, yes? And it sounds so sour grapes to “dis” stars for their activism. A little jealousy, perhaps? Mr. Robbins is a serious, very intelligent man.

— Bea

33. November 4, 2008
2:53 pm

The solution here is to ensure that the affidavit ballots are counted too. Mixups are unavoidable, but if you count the vote of someone who swears they are entitled to vote, subject to later verification if necessary, that should do the trick.

— Joe Schwarz

34. November 4, 2008
2:53 pm

Hilary 4: I don’t think people are blaming the poll workers per se, but rather, those who were responsible for designing, implementing, and overseeing the entire voting process. Poll workers should have more resources (supplies, volunteers, sufficient breaks). Better training. Instructions on how to handle particular scenarios of problems as they arise (i.e., broken machines, people not on the lists, how to assuage voters that their vote WILL be counted, etc.)

All polling centers should have direct open lines to the Board of Elections to try and handle voter registration problems as they are discovered. Lawyers should be on hand at every site. Any problems should be documented on a computer, and the voter given a copy of the submitted “complaint” for their own records.


The entire process is a sham.

— yippee1999

35. November 4, 2008
2:54 pm

I, too, raised my voice this a.m. at my polling place in Brooklyn when informed that the one machine for my district was broken and then being given contradictory instructions on how to fill out an “emergency” ballot. One might expect such an emotional reaction if I lived in a battleground state instead of in NYC, where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. However, probably like Mr. Robbins, I was soooooo looking forward to pulling the lever in the most historic presidential election of our lifetimes, that I almost cried after leaving the polling place.

— Mary Kathryn Bessinger

36. November 4, 2008
2:57 pm

Unbelieveable! Yet, year to year, election to election these things happen and nothing is done. Like Liat (21) I’m glad it happened to Tim Robbins - sorry for him, but his inconvenience serves to publicize a problem that would not happen with just some ordinary Joe. Who knows, the Heavens may open, Angels may weep, and a miracle may happen all leading to fixing an obviously rusty, breaking system. But don’t hold your breath.

— Tom from Wisconsin

37. November 4, 2008
2:57 pm

The same thing happened to me in Atlanta, I was told that my name had been mysteriously ‘dropped’ from the registration list and I would have to reregister to vote in future elections and would not be able to vote in the one. I am livid.

— T

38. November 4, 2008
2:57 pm

Robbins was correct, though he could have been more professional in his demeanor. These are mostly retired volunteers working the polls…

Every election is important and I’m sick and tired of everyone saying this is the most important election of their life…then you ask if they voted in the last election and they say no. We are so fortunate in the US with our freedoms, don’t waste it by not voting, even if it’s just local elections. EVERY ELECTION COUNTS!

Tonight history will be made so don’t let it go in vain by becoming apathetic Americans tomorrow! Stay engaged…

— Doc

39. November 4, 2008
2:57 pm

I had to vote with a provisional ballot because the NYC Board of Election failed to update my voter registeration with my new home address. But now I’m wondering if it was the right thing to do.

I called 1-212-VOTE-NYC, and they had assured me that I could vote in my new precint, provided that I bring over a proof of new residence. But like Mr. Robbins, I wonder if I should have fought to vote in the booth.

— Jake “Hussein” Kim

40. November 4, 2008
3:01 pm

Thank goodness for Robbins’ reaction. Clearly, he’s reacted appropriately whereas others were unable to because of time/money constraints. And now we learn that at least 40 others at that one pollling place had the same problem.
Thanks, Tim.

— Quetzal

41. November 4, 2008
3:01 pm

This same thing happened this morning to me, my husband and my daughter. In fact, the only one in our family who was registered in the book was my son, who is away at school and requested an absentee ballot.

What I don’t understand, is that my daughter is a registered democrat and was able to vote in the primary. They had her in the book then??!!

— NicRobsMom

42. November 4, 2008
3:02 pm

Same thing happened to me today. I voted at this location without a problem in the primary this year, but was not on the roll when I showed up today. I filled out the paper ballot and called the board of elections to verify my registration and voting location. I was registered and at the right location, my name was simply on the rolls. It concerns me, I don’t trust the paper ballots.

— Ryan

43. November 4, 2008
3:03 pm

It’s absurd. I’m from Sweden and I’ve never ever even heard of someone in this country having any sort of problems voting. I pity the American citizens. Shape up, US government.

— Peter Bilow

44. November 4, 2008
3:04 pm

I am in Australia, and we are watching you all with a great deal of interest. I am afraid that the democracy you take for granted is really an illusion. When the citizenry cannot rely on an effective voting system, and it appears to be subject to deliberate tampering or neglect, then you guys are in serious trouble.

Of particular interest to the rest of us are the following deficiencies :-

1) Traditionally on a tuesday - when most people are working
2) Traditionally in November - bad weather & season
3) Use of machines - why cant a X in pencil do ? It works everywhere else around the world
4) Not enough electoral booths - on my calculations per voter we have about 10 times the number of booths
5) Booths are manned by trained & paid volunteers
6) Voting here is compulsory - as it should be
7) 2 days before election day (always a Saturday) media goes quiet - the electorate has been bombarded to months - let them make up their mind
8) Election day - media blackout until booths close - they can discuss the voting process but not the results
9) A vote is NEVER called by a Network (that is illegal) it always waits for one side or the other to accept the decision of the electoral office
10) Electoral Rolls are computer based records and you can access your record at any time

I cannot understand how your government can spend so many millions on an election campaign, and so little on the process itself … you guys are being duped … they don’t want you to vote, despite what you say.

I hope you guys vote in great numbers and get rid of that nitwit in the white house, for all our sakes.

My father was about to retire, and now he cannot because his superannuation has dropped 40% in value thanks to the cowboys on Wall Street - looks like he will have to work until he drops.

I would be interested in your comments on these issues

Len from OZ

— Len from OZ

45. November 4, 2008
3:05 pm

how odd that this sort of thing seems to happen primarily to democrat voters.

— medve

46. November 4, 2008
3:05 pm

In Wisconsin, Mr Robbin’s problem would easily be resolved. We can register at the polls on election day.
It’s time to allow same day registration in all states.

— Arnie in Madison,WI

47. November 4, 2008
3:06 pm

I voted this morning and witnessed some aggressive and hostile poll workers. Mr. Robbins was just trying to cast his ballot, and I doubt he was yelling and screaming. If you dont like dealing with lots of people, don’t volunteer.

— Rob

48. November 4, 2008
3:06 pm

I had the same experience in Oneida County, NY. My name was not in the “signature book” even though I was listed in a separate document as a registered voter. I called the Supreme Court (trial court) judge on duty, who said he -could not- order the poll workers to let me vote in the machine. I had to fill out a provisional ballot and I’m very upset and angry that, in this most historic election, I didn’t get to pull the lever for my candidate of choice.

— Raj

49. November 4, 2008
3:06 pm

I’ve voted in 5 states (AZ, NM, MN, CA, OR) over the last 2 decades. Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is by far the easiest to deal with. I can’t think of a good reason why everyone doesn’t adopt it. Of course, it does mean you have to have your act together enough to register about a month before the election, but that’s really not that hard here. And it’s nice to be able to vote at your own kitchen table, with time to really examine everything before you if you’re so inclined.

— Dave

50. November 4, 2008
3:07 pm

I, too, am glad that it happend to Mr. Robbins, as he brings more attention to these issues than the average John Doe.

In Germany we vote on paper, with a pen. Works perfectly fine, there is no need for high tech which may (and does) fail. We also don’t have this problem with voters not being registered, in fact we are informed when and where the voting takes place, and we usually don’t have to wait in line for more than five minutes. Obviously this only works since we have to inform our registration office when we move, and every citizen is registered. I understand that America doesn’t want such a thing, but perhaps it’s better than having this chaos year after year.

. November 4, 2008
3:08 pm

The NY Board of Elections is awful. My husband and I were disenfranchised from the Democratic primaries because they couldn’t figure out how to send absentee ballots out. I called them several times about it and everytime they said the ballots were on there way. The ballots never arrived.

— Vic

52. November 4, 2008
3:09 pm

It is not surprising that the two personal attacks of Mr. Robbins (#4 & #7) come from two frequent right wing folks on your comment pages. The usual approach is to attack the person and not comment on the very problem that initiates the article, much like the entire pathetic Mcain/Palin campaign…attack your opponent and alter the truth to distract from the republican’s responsibilty for the disaster they have left the country in today.

I have been voting for a number of years and no matter where I have lived, the blatant voting irregularities always seem to be initiated by or refer back to republican tactics. I think this current election will be no different.

Mr. Robbins had every right to fight back for his vote being counted. I am not saying that his particular problem is definitely the result of republican tampering in N.Y. But if recent history tells us anything ( Florida 2000 & Ohio 2000/2004, and the increased right wing robocalls/mailings in 2008, one must be very diligent to protect tehir voting rights. Especially in the face of the ‘do anything to get elected’ dogma of the right wing.


— Nicholas Wood

53. November 4, 2008
3:10 pm

This is ridiculous.

We’ve spent the last 7 years trying to force another country to be democratic, yet our own system is an antiquated mess.

For all the money this country blows in so many ways, why on earth can’t there be a NATIONAL voting system with, some sort of hard copy recording of votes, along with provisions for each state to customize?

— Mr. Reeee

54. November 4, 2008
3:11 pm

I find it odd that such a politically active person as Tim Robbins didn’t vote in this year’s presidential primaries.

— SB

55. November 4, 2008
3:12 pm

This happened to me and my girlfriend too. At 6:15 AM, we were not the only ones filing these out, either - at least 7 other people were. We were highly suspect, and completely dissapointed - to have this experience after following all the rules, making the effort to get up and out early. We contested, but one of the old ladies running the poles said “these are the ones that will be counted tonight…don’t you listen to the radio?!?!”

— Greg

56. November 4, 2008
3:13 pm

Boy, it’s a good thing these folks aren’t in charge of our healthcare.

— PJ

57. November 4, 2008
3:13 pm

I am taking my first break from working at my poll site. It was an overwhelming madhouse this am. The worst of it was being abused and assailed by people like Mr. Robbins ( the bullies are invariably the large men, who yell at the top of their lungs that we’re a bunch of Nazis). Don’t they know we are their neighbors? We are practically volunteers, doing this as best as we can. I implore Mr. Robbins to sign up to work the polls next time. He deserves it.
— Hilary

Hilary are you saying that Robbins should not have insisted for his right to vote. Or that Robbins was not eligible? Perhaps the voting processs should be manned by paid professionals who are properly trained instead of amateurs such as yourself who only screw up the works due to ignorance of the way things should work.

— M Lane NYC

58. November 4, 2008
3:14 pm

For every Tim Robbins out there who took the time to get a ballot, how many didn’t have that luxury or felt they couldn’t insist on being counted. It seems clear that in an election where for months we have known the difference was likely to be made by new voters, that our government failed to get large numbers of new voters into the system.

I live and vote in Oregon and we vote by mail. No lines. My ballot arrives weeks before the election and I can vote at my kitchen table. I can drop my ballot in the mail or in ballot boxes scattered around the community. For those who like the ritual of going to a voting site on election day, those are available, too. Efficient and effective.

— Jennifer

59. November 4, 2008
3:16 pm

And now you see why ‘registration fraud’ by groups like ACORN can and do pose problems on election day.

If someone can fraudulently register using your name with another address and you not know… the opportunity for disenfranchisment is golden.

— darko

60. November 4, 2008
3:17 pm

It’s been interesting to see how unbelievable your voting system really is. You guys should come to Europe and see how a proper voting is done in here. Last election with miscalculated votes in Florida really made us laugh at US. How come the guy with most votes didn’t win? Something ought to be done.

— European

61. November 4, 2008
3:17 pm

HBO re-ran “Recount” last night lest any of us are lulled into a false sense of security about the Republicans trying to steal an election. Is it really just irony that Tim Robbins fell victim to a voter-roll purge?

— rbk

62. November 4, 2008
3:18 pm

Having lived in first Oregon & now Washington for the last 16 years, I am amazed the rest of our country has not gone to Vote by Mail. We get our ballots in early October & have weeks to examine the often confusing propositions before voting. It’s so nice to be able to research our choices & take our time making them.

It also allows plenty of time to correct any problems like Mr. Robbins experienced without wasting half a day doing so.

Write your elected officials & demand Vote by Mail for future elections.

— Swillabrew

63. November 4, 2008
3:18 pm

A former police officer told me a basic lesson he learned as a young cop: there are two things that undermine an officer’s authority. Impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

I would say the same applies to voting. We have at very least the appearance here, and the board of elections needs to be extremely forthcoming with information about how they have managed to disenfranchise large numbers of qualified voters. This sort of thing should never happen. Period.

— nate

64. November 4, 2008
3:18 pm

How convenient that two NYT reporters were standing there transcribing everything that was said. What? You are just taking Tim (Do you know who I am?) Robbins version of the events? Never mind.

— Dan

65. November 4, 2008
3:19 pm

From the City Room


Actually, the two Times journalists (who don’t know each other) both live in that neighborhood and were voting when they recognized and approached Mr. Robbins, who later returned a call seeking clarification of some details. He did not seek the news coverage.

— Patrick LaForge

66. November 4, 2008
3:19 pm

My colleagues and me have all wondered today how much impact the archaic methods of voting (sorry, no offense intended) will have on this election. Here in Germany I have never ever witnessed or heard from anyone being sent away when they wanted to vote.
Granted, once my mail-in ballot didn’t get to me and despite my protest I didn’t receive a new one (so I can fully understand how Mr Robbins must have felt), but I’ve never heard of people disappearing from voter lists.
I wish everyone the best of luck (it’s sad that the chance to vote seems to come down to luck at some places) and hope your vote gets counted. And thanks to everyone who is voting, we in Europe are following this election very closely and are delighted by the huge turnout.

— Starstuff

67. November 4, 2008
3:20 pm

NY=antediluvian at best.. Why did NY send out requests to reverify registration if not in the hopes of purging people?

When I lived there, 8 yrs in higher ed, moving after each year, the opposing party would make sure my registration was cancelled after each change of address card at the post office. Eventually I caught on and reregistered each time I moved. So glad to now live in motor-voter state where my voter reg is good as long as my driver’s license is.

— HardyW

68. November 4, 2008
3:20 pm

Something very similar happened to a woman standing in front of me at PS 38 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn this morning. After standing in line for almost 2 hours (that’s another topic - how two districts had only one machine each with tremendous lines while 4 districts were nearly empty), she was told that her name was not in the book. However she had been voting at the same place for 13 years and had even voted in this past primary. Needless to say she was very frustrated and emotional and I don’t blame her. Having voted at a number of polling places in NYC over the years, I must say that NYC’s current system is an embarrassment for a modern democracy.

— Mike F

69. November 4, 2008
3:20 pm

Good this is poetic justice for all the stupid things liberals like Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon stand for.

He should have double-checked his voter registeration card. I mean since he is so smart about government he should have known better.

I hope he has to sit there until the polls close and is given a provisional ballot! Go McCain!

— Matthew Brentwood

70. November 4, 2008
3:22 pm

Tim Robbins was definitely within his rights to be annoyed about his name being removed from the list. For a country where millions of its citizens are always yammering on about being # one in the world, why on earth doesn’t someone in power do something about this antiquated mess? No one should have to wait for hours to vote. What a disgrace ! I can only begin to imagine the long lines in Florida and Ohio and other places where voting has become nightmarish. What’s wrong with the officials in those states? And why can’t they get their act together? None of this makes any sense to me at all.

— Joan Conroy

71. November 4, 2008
3:22 pm

It is safe to assume that for every Tim Robbins there are hundreds of people with similar problems who don’t have the star power to be able to make a ruckus without fear.

I am very glad he did raise the roof and some public awareness. Thank you, Mr. Robbins!

If our mayor the 24-billionaire Mike Bloomberg wanted to put a dent in his current reputation as the mayor of disenfranchisement, he could donate a few million (pocket change) to reforming this problem.

— Shelley

72. November 4, 2008
3:22 pm

Of all the people you could have written about. TR is the biggest blowhard in N.Y. C. He complains about every issue in his community. He has even complained to the venue where he ice skates - that the ice was too cold!

max in so. village

— max de winter

73. November 4, 2008
3:23 pm

If this happened to other people, would they have the persistence Mr. Robbins has to ensure their vote counted? Hmmm…

— Lucas

74. November 4, 2008
3:23 pm

Why the preoccupation with using new and complex technology when old and tested methods will do? Only in America could we come up with a torturous electric chair as a method of “humane” execution of a sentence of death instead of fast, simple methods in use for centuries, and likewise only here could we insist on machines with which to vote when a piece of paper and a pencil work marvelously well and show signs if tampered with.

Canada has a greater land area, though admittedly only about 1/10th the populace, but it manages to vote in a single day (after mercifully brief and invariably more enlightening election campaigns) and they know who won within hours of the last polls having closed. The results are rarely questioned. They used paper and pencils and people able to count. Europe has about the same population as the US, though admittedly over a smaller land area, and it manages much the same as Canada (yes, there are pan-European elections over three consecutive days depending on national custom). They generally use a paper and pencil and people who can count and know the results in a very timely fashion. Their elections are only very rarely challenged, and challenges are dealt with rapidly and accurately. How is it Iraq has generally more orderly elections than the US?! Why can’t we get this most basic thing right? Why is it even remotely contentious?

— Ralph in Glen Cove

75. November 4, 2008
3:25 pm

Something is definitely screwy with NYC voter registration.

I hadn’t received anything in the mail for today’s election. Luckily I happened to be watching NY1 last week where they instructed how you can verify your registration on line.

Fortunately I was able to vote this morning, no problem.

And good for Tim Robbins, just wonder how many other NYC voters had the same problem but neither time nor preserverence to pursue.

— She Who Knows

76. November 4, 2008
3:27 pm

Thank you Tim Robbins for using your fame to publicize what is happening to thousands of ordinary citizens trying to exercise their right to vote!

I wish the people posting their similar experiences would give their party affiliation. (Pretty sure we know Mr. Robbins’.) It would be interesting to know if there is a pattern.


77. November 4, 2008
3:28 pm

The federal govt is more interested in training tax collectors than in vote collectors. The business of the American government is business not proper representation. It’s no wonder that the public loses more and more faith as the ineptitude of the process continues.

— B Matthews

78. November 4, 2008
3:28 pm

Another New Yorker with voting problems this morning, after 20 years living/voting in the same place (Brooklyn Heights).
My name also disappeared form the list. I’ve paid taxes, done jury duty etc for years, but voting is a problem?
I don’t recall being asked to verify my address. New York what is up!? I don’t understand why we can’t have voting day registration or a mail in /early voting system like many states. As other have stated, this is ridiculous. Poll workers where quite helpful, but still…

— Becky

79. November 4, 2008
3:29 pm

This story seems odd - too perfectly timed, framed and reported. In other words, this story has the smell of a set-up. I think the actor-turned-activist suffers from Lindsay Lohan syndrome - lacking headlines, he resorts to tired street theater.

— Mike Wendy

80. November 4, 2008
3:29 pm

Hilary: He has a right to yell at a poll worker who tells him to fill out a provisional ballot, which, in fact are nothing more than wasted paper. Never, ever fill out a provisional. You might as well just skip the election and go home.

— Juan

81. November 4, 2008
3:29 pm

I, too, was removed from the rolls. I discovered it last week (by checking my status online), and went to the Brooklyn Board of Elections and got reinstated. But no one could tell me why I’d been removed. I voted in the primary this year, and none of my information (address, name) has changed since.

New York Times, I think it would be worth your investigative efforts to find out how many people were purged, and why.

— Brooklyn Voter

82. November 4, 2008
3:31 pm

Mail voting works great in Oregon; no lines, big turnouts, no fraud; paper ballot for recounts; you know right away if there is a problem because you receive your ballot 2 weeks before the election; it’s cheaper for gov’t too;

When will the rest of the country seriously look at what Oregon has been doing right for several years now?

— Greg - Oregon

83. November 4, 2008
3:33 pm

The same thing happened to me this morning. I am recently married and attempted to change my name on my voter registration through the DMV, several days before the deadline last month. I was told that it would absolutely be processed in time, and that even if it wasn’t, as long as I gave the last four digits of my social security number, I could vote. Several days ago, I received a confirmation of the change from the Board of Elections- however, my name was not actually changed. I figured it was a minor inconvenience and planned to take ID in both my maiden name and married name to the polls. This morning, when I went to vote, neither name was in the regular book or the supplemental book. I have lived in the same place and voted there for the last six years. I am also upset that I had to fill out an affidavit ballot, unsure that it will really be counted. Unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of time to go to the courts as Mr. Robbins did, but I if I could have, I would have.. had I known that was an option! The lack of information, organization and simple procedures for US elections is outrageous. How can we call ourselves the greatest democracy in the world if one of our largest and most sophisticated cities can’t get it right?

— Emily K

84. November 4, 2008
3:33 pm

LOL, even the rich and famous can be disenfranchised. Now THAT’S democracy!

— Joe Twelve-pack

85. November 4, 2008
3:34 pm

California allows you to vote by mail-in ballot. If your state does it, then do it. Save time and hassle. Vote in thje comfort of your own home for $.42 courtesy of the US Postal Service.

— Jeffrey A. Clark

86. November 4, 2008
3:34 pm

Sounds as if they’re getting the rolls ready — i.e. cleansed — for Mike Bloomberg’s 3rd term run next year.

Hey, a hundred million plus can buy you anything … and it’s bupkes for billionaire Bloomberg.

Mike wants a ‘12 run for the White House … but he needs a 3rd term victory to get up on that stump.

Watch for highly active scrubbing of NYC voter rolls next year.

— Sloper

87. November 4, 2008
3:35 pm

Hey New Yorkers, we’re voting by mail in Oregon….no polling places, period. It’s great. I’d never go back to the chaos of a polling place. Think no lines, drop your ballot in the mail or personally by Obama’s headquarters where the whole place erupts with cheers!

— Ralph

88. November 4, 2008
3:36 pm

How, in this day and age of iPhones, GPS devices, technology-in-your-coffee-cup do we not have a better, modern method of voting that would guarantee every eligible person an easy, effortless way to vote? A method that would not have Tim Robbins, or anyone else for that matter, running around Manhattan having to prove that he’s eligible.

— Isadore Strauss

89. November 4, 2008
3:37 pm

With all due apologies to Mr. Robbins, I am glad this happened to a well-known and well spoken actor and activist.

It brings attention to the problem.

Thanks for your efforts, Mr. Robbins.

— Jamie

90. November 4, 2008
3:38 pm

I had a similar situation this morning when I voted in my first presidential election: I registered early and verified before heading to my polling place that my name was registered at my current address on the state election website, only to discover that my name was not on the list of registered voters at my polling place. I reregistered (”same-day registration”), of all things, fortunately having brought proof of residence, but it certainly seemed a little screwy at the time.

— Dan - WI

91. November 4, 2008
3:38 pm

This is voter suppression in action. One of the commenters to this story said “ I find it odd that such a politically active person as Tim Robbins didn’t vote in this year’s presidential primaries.” I think they misunderstood the story. Robbins WAS on the voter rolls for the primary which he knows because he voted.

Those who seek to subvert the national election (probably the same folks who DID subvert the 2000 and 2004 elections) know that by bumping a few people here and a few people there from the voter rolls, they can effectively bump a lot of people.

I’m glad Tim Robbins has the time to chase this down, and glad he did, but there are a lot of people who are not as assertive, who may not know their rights, or who may not have the time to pursue their vote because they have to work to maintain in an economy the GOP has ruthlessly destroyed.

See a pattern?

— Baruch

92. November 4, 2008
3:40 pm

I live in Chicago. The same thing happened to me this morning at my local polling place. I displayed my voter registration card, which I received about six months ago (I recently moved from another state). Not on the rolls. I cast a provisional ballot.

I’m confident that my ballot won’t be lost, but the incident has me worried for the many newly registered voters casting ballots in this election. How many new young voters will know to bring a photo ID and a bill with their address to their polling place? How many don’t *have* any bills in their name?

— MH

93. November 4, 2008
3:40 pm

Put the cake eating, socialist, back into Shawshank where he belongs

— Jim Girard

94. November 4, 2008
3:41 pm

New York should adopt an early voting system similar to what we have here in New Mexico. I voted two weeks ago. Those who encountered difficulty with their registration for whatever reason then have ample time to correct the problem. We also use paper ballots so that there is a paper trail on all votes cast. The completed ballot goes through a reader probably somewhat similar to the ones used to grade SAT scores. It is a simple system, most effective and enables ample time to resolve all problems. I would guess few, if any, are turned away at the polls.

Bernie 50

— Bernard Hirsch

95. November 4, 2008
3:42 pm

I was similarly purged here in Texas before the 2004 election. Even though I had ID and a valid voter registration card. I have no idea why. My wife at the same address was allowed to vote. (yes, I was registered democrat.).

— Steve in Austin

96. November 4, 2008
3:43 pm

This just happened to me, too. I last voted, in the same place, in 2006. Very frustrating.

— Gilad

97. November 4, 2008
3:43 pm

I had a similar problem this morning. The poll worker was obviously rushed and misread my district number and sent me to the wrong table. They couldn’t find my name on the list and insisted that I fill out a provisional ballot. I’ve been voting at the same place for ten years and told her that I thought they had sent me to the wrong line and asked them to please check the list again. I finally found someone who checked the list again, and there was my name. There was no need for a provisional ballot after all, just as I thought. It was kind of intimidating, and it it took 45 minutes. In the end it was just a mistake, but the poll workers were too quick to suggest a provisonal ballot rather than double check their list.

— Dottie

98. November 4, 2008
3:44 pm

It was an overwhelming madhouse this am. The worst of it was being abused and assailed by people like Mr. Robbins ( the bullies are invariably the large men, who yell at the top of their lungs that we’re a bunch of Nazis)…We are practically volunteers, doing this as best as we can.

— Hilary

Excuse me, Hilary, but being unjustly denied the right to vote and getting no help from polling place workers should make anyone angry.

Voting is our fundamental freedom that ensures all the other freedoms in this country.

And you are not “practically volunteers,” unless NY has a very different system from RI, which pays poll workers $165 for the day.

As to it being a madhouse, how long have voting officials known there was going to be a huge turnout this election? How the heck hard can it be to not purge obviously legitimate voters? How hard can it be to set up enough polling places and voting booths?

This is not rocket science.

— trudy

99. November 4, 2008
3:45 pm

In Canada, we have a voter list, but we are also required to take a piece of photo ID with our address on it, or, if we’ve recently moved and have not changed our driver’s license yet, a piece of photo ID and a piece of official mail (from a utility, for example) with the new address on it. We are also supposed to take our election notification form with us, which also has our name and address on it. Then a form is filled out, and are given the same ballot as those who are already on the list.

The different ballots noted in this story seem to unnecessarily complicate the situation. If you have proof of residency, and ID, then you should be able to vote just like anyone else.

We don’t have the (often malfunctioning) computer voting system either. We have ordinary people counting ballots. It might take longer, but there are fewer malfunctions, and it seems a simple thing to have different people counting the same votes to avoid suspicious activities.

— Jennifer

100. November 4, 2008
3:46 pm

The same thing happened to two friends of mine in Brooklyn this morning. This is completely unacceptable.

One friend saw that he was listed as “inactive” on a Board of Elections of website, despite the fact that he voted in 2006. Upon calling the Board last week, he was told that it would be fine; he would be on the rolls, and would be moved over to active after voting.

— Matthew

101. November 4, 2008
3:48 pm

Write your Congressman. We need to modify the Nation Law agains purging Voter Registration. Purging should only be done 90 days before the primaries. Modifications can be done for Deaths and by local Public officials only after being reviewed before hand by representatives from both Parties for verification. Each voter should then be allowed to access a statewide database that allows them to check on their registration 60 days before election and have 30 days before the primary to get registered. We must put laws in place and threaten viloating officials with Federal vote tampering laws, so this sort of thing is more closely scrutinized in the future and prevented.


102. November 4, 2008
3:48 pm

I, too, found that after 22 years at the same polling place, my name did not appear in the voter registration book!

I was told I had to fill out an Absentee Ballot, a paper one, and give it to one of the poll watchers. I was assured that this was “not unusual,” that others have been removed from the rolls.

What’s going on??????

— Daphne Prior

103. November 4, 2008
3:49 pm

The Exact same thing just happened to me when i went to vote 20 minutes ago.

I’ve been voting at the same place for 3 years. I voted in the primaries. And now my name is ‘mysteriously’ missing on election day!!

This is atrocious.

— Mackenzie

104. November 4, 2008
3:50 pm

The answer to all this nonsense is to follow Oregon’s lead–everyone, without exception, votes by mail. At least you will know your vote was cast… whether it was counted is a problem we’ll take up at a later time.

— inland Jim

105. November 4, 2008
3:50 pm

I would be every bit as annoyed as Mr. Robbins and would have reacted in exactly the same way. I’m glad it happened to someone famous so additional attention can be brought to this serious problem.

21st century anyone? Let’s get with it and fix this.

— Anne Hills

106. November 4, 2008
3:51 pm

I also vote in a foreign country—the people’s Republic of Berkeley. I waited in line for about 15 minutes, I voted on a paper ballot, and everything was explained and taken care of when I had a minor glitch voting for too many rent board members. Looks we spacey Hippies have a better control of this that all those “practical” Republican businessmen.

— Teed Rockwell

107. November 4, 2008
3:53 pm

This happened to me during the last presidential election. When I was able to get through to the BOE, i was told that my address had changed to an address at which I’ve never lived. I remember how shocked I was - good for him for going to see the judge.

— Jen

108. November 4, 2008
3:53 pm

I used to live in NYC, but now live in another state. Out of interest I checked my NY status on the state’s website and YES I was still a registered NY voter. So clearly there’s a problem when some people are kicked off the roll while others are left on regardless.

— David O

109. November 4, 2008
3:54 pm

Totally off topic, was anybody else startled to see more than FIVE different options for president? For instance, I could have voted for McCain of the Republican Party, McCain of the Conservative Party, or McCain of the Independent Party. What the heck was up with that? Obama was down as a Democrat and something like the Family Values party, but still it was McCain over Obama by three to two.

— RomanHans

110. November 4, 2008
3:55 pm

almost happened to me …. until it became clear that the poll worker was spelling my name incorrectly. He mistook my spelling my last name as double L in stead of W L ["ll" instead of "wl" ] which meant he was looking on the wrong page. eventually I caught on to his error and corrected him. voting successfully.. Perhaps the double B in Mr. Robbins name caused a similar page problem, though I would imagine they thought of that. or at least I hope they did.

— Rowland

111. November 4, 2008
3:55 pm

the answer is to abolish voter registration. any adult, upon showing proper identification and the correct address, should be able to vote, and then that name, address, identification type and number get entered into the database so the same person can’t vote again. those indigent adults who don”t have identification should get a free, tamper-proof voter i.d. card from their state of residence upon completing a free application process.

— peterg

112. November 4, 2008
3:57 pm

Man I had this exact same thing happen to me in the 2004 election. Voted in the primary no problem, voted in each successive election no problem, but I magically wasn’t on the books in the presidential election. No problems this year though.

— Puablo

113. November 4, 2008
3:57 pm

Tim Robbins was absolutely right — legally, morally, and ethically. What is happening in NYC is a disgrace and it’s sad to say that the Board of Elections is still the same outdated mess run by a bunch of people who share a brain as it was 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 25 years ago — when I was working on election law cases regarding voter fraud and Board of Elections incompetence.

How many valid voters will be disenfranchised today? Most people don’t have the time, knowledge, or passion to insist on speaking to a Bd. of Elections official and then taking the time to receive a verification in writing from HQ downtown, as Mr. Robbins did. He’s a hero for making the issue as public as he could make it.

We can’t see another election stolen — either by malfeasance or incompetence.

— Leslie Carroll

114. November 4, 2008
3:58 pm

Exact same thing happened to me. The poll workers told me my only option was to vote by affidavit (no information was given that I could go to the Election Board and have a judge immediately give me access to a voting booth).

I can only hope that my vote will be counted. Absolutely no confidence, though, in seeing the poll worker throw my affidavit with others in a nondescript envelope on a shelf full of coats, personal items, etc.

— Jaemin, Boerum Hill

115. November 4, 2008
3:58 pm

The solution is perhaps a uniform, national mail-in system, based on Social Security Numbers or alternate government issued number for those with no need for an SSN. Election day ballots could be turned in at polling places but without voters having to appear on a list. Only those with a right to vote (not our arcane voter registeration process) are counted based on Social Security age and citizenship data (true universal suffrage). Persons attempting to vote more than once or interfering with anyone’s right to vote should be prosecuted and if convicted given a 10 year minimum federal prison sentence. Election officials violating privacy laws would be subject to the same minimum imprisonment.

— Bob

116. November 4, 2008
3:59 pm

Tim who????????

— too droll to troll

117. November 4, 2008
4:01 pm

Robbins is right to be teed off. This sort of capricious expulsion from registered voter lists, often lazily explained away as ‘accidental’ or a ‘glitch,’ is UTTERLY and WHOLLY unacceptable. No one should look casually upon such an easy disenfranchisment of voters. Either it is happening because of intentional mischief or gross incompetence, and voters are right to fight back aggressively when it occurs.

— Chris

118. November 4, 2008
4:02 pm

If McCain wins, how are we supposed to see this as legitimate? Is this what the Republicans think of as “the Real America?”

— rd, jr

119. November 4, 2008
4:04 pm

At my polling place in the east village, we were told that voter lists are only updated for the past 4 years, so even if you voted in 2004, you wouldn’t be on the list and had to fill out a provisional ballot.

Ridiculous! If you didn’t vote in the primaries or 2006 elections, you’re not listed. This is wrong wrong wrong!!!

— daVid

120. November 4, 2008
4:04 pm

How many more things must happen before Americans take back their country. When the goal of George W. Bush is to spread fair elections around the world, how can Americans allow this nonsense. Let us hope that McCain or Obama with all the governor and state level officials work toward ending this problem. All Americans should be allowed to vote, this is an embarrassment.

— Anthony

121. November 4, 2008
4:04 pm

I also worked for many years at the polls, and I was verbally abused when peoples’ rights were denied to them. We followed procedure and made sure that they found out how to address their problems.
There are a lot of people (like myself) who believe that voting is a sacred right. If the workers at the polls aren’t helpful, being loud and “difficult” may be the only way to get the attention one needs to solve a problem.
And no, you are not “practically” a volunteer. You either are, or you are not, and even if it’s a small amount, I believe you are paid. So suck it up and do your job. If someone’s harrassing you, sic a cop on him or her. In an election a couple of years ago in my district, that’s exactly what happened: a woman was screaming at an election inspector, and a police officer escorted her out after she started using obscenities and acting physically threatening. We all thanked him.

— David

122. November 4, 2008
4:05 pm

yes, the election process is messy, but I thank God we have one. And sometimes the slow and old-fashioned way is more reliable than high technology methods.
What i find interesting is that there are many, many complaints here about the terrible job our government is doing. Yet how many of you are voting for more government bureaucracy in our lives in things like health care, school choice, etc. When something goes wrong, blame the government. who should fix it? the government. what do we do about it? ask for more government. i don’t know how to help you.

— j o s h

123. November 4, 2008
4:06 pm

Tim and his wife are political activists. They may have been struck from the rolls for that reason. All it takes is one person to do some mischief.

— Navin

124. November 4, 2008
4:07 pm

And Hilary, how are we to know your political agenda? You don’t think every person should have the right to vote, or protest loudly when that right is taken from them?

— cathy

125. November 4, 2008
4:07 pm

This happened to me and the person in front of me in line. This was after waiting for two hours to vote in the 97th district. I cast a paper vote which will not be counted, but there was nothing else I could do, that I knew of.
I was caught off guard.
Such a disappointment as I was excited to vote.

— Matthew Chase

126. November 4, 2008
4:07 pm

Tim Robbins went to Stuyvesant, just like David Axelrod. I went there too. We are incapable of takiing er, uh, stuff from anyone.

That, in my mind, is one reason Obama will be our next president.

Get the champagne on ice, asap.

— jeff P

127. November 4, 2008
4:08 pm

Mr. Robbins is certainly correct to put up a fuss- not only does he have the “time and luxury” to pursue the issue that not every average voter has, he also has celebrity power to bring the problem to light. I understand that poll workers are certainly overwhelmed, and no one likes being yelled at, but this election is utterly crucial, and everybody’s vote should be recorded.

— Beth

128. November 4, 2008
4:08 pm

I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and I also had the same problem today. I voted In every election (not just presidential, but local elections also) for the last eight years in the same spot. I know all the poll workers at this location and also serve in the neighborhood organization with them. I show up this morning, to find my name was also removed from the master lists. Luckily, I was allowed to vote after myself and some of the poll workers called up the city clerks office and pushed for answers.

— Wisco

129. November 4, 2008
4:09 pm

ON the road to banana republicanism? Why I though we got there around 2000, when we had our first non-elected President. In 2004, well I assume he was not elected, as the deciding votes in Ohio have been sequestered for 25 years. And if McPalin get “elected,” don’t believe it. That is the way it works in a banana republic. Actually I have some experience with banana republics, some are better than ours. If you are middle class in Argentina, not so bad at all.Even if Christina is a marvellous model for Palin–assuming she heard of her or Argentina.

— Richard Gustafson

130. November 4, 2008
4:10 pm

Even if we keep the archaic Electoral College, perhaps if the Dems get a filibuster-proof Senate, our leaders can take on election reform nationally. We need a standard system, paid for by the Federal government. While their at it, they need to make election day a holiday. .
I voted this morning in PA, on one of the incredibly efficient electronic machines that provided no record of my vote. Off it went into the either with only my hopes that someone would be able to count it.

— bob

131. November 4, 2008
4:12 pm

he was right to complain. the louder the better. after all, he was
heard and advised appropriately. paper ballots are
vulnerable to loss and/or theft. why take that chance? and why is this happening at all?. it seems
impossible to correct.

— E Timberman

132. November 4, 2008
4:13 pm

I moved back to my home state from Oregon this summer and how I miss the Oregon voting system. Simple paper, no lines, no machines to malfunction. I was one of the first in line here in a small town in Nevada and we had issues from the start. I was not removed from the rolls, but the cards for the machines given to voters were not activated. Instead of stopping and fixing the problem immediately the poll workers kept bringing people over with non-working cards, leaving us to stand in front of the machine for twenty minutes unable to vote. When the workers were confronted with the problem they just kept bringing people over, a quick apology, but no action taken. Finally one woman started taking each persons card back over and activating it but a backlog had already been created and our faith in machine voting depleted even more.
As for those who question the timing of Mr. Robbins incident as a stunt, the fact that many other people on this board have had the exact same experience should be a wake up call that there are still serious issues that need to be addressed within our voting system.

— Jessi

133. November 4, 2008
4:13 pm

In voting, as in baseball, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes . . . it rains.

Think about that for a minute.

— CI

134. November 4, 2008
4:13 pm

Robbins lied. He said he voted in the primary and his name was on the rolls. Oooops Mr. Democracy you didn’t vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary. It’s there in the article.

What a worthless joke. But I guess not as bad as Bill Maher.

— Dave

135. November 4, 2008
4:16 pm

For the greatest nation in the world, how can this be how we vote? At the polls this morning, I witnessed so many opportunities for error. A poll worker had a voided ballot and couldn’t find the correct envelope to put it in. After searching high and low, she put it in another envelope and hastily scratched what it was on the outside. The woman who was supposed to be helping people insert their ballots in the tabulator kept getting called away and distracted… It looked like a poorly run operation. Great poll workers as far as being polite and trying, but the system is broken. Can’t we face that? The way we vote–different in every state and unreliable in all–is broken.

— Jennifer

136. November 4, 2008
4:16 pm

Totaly agree with Stephanie post #28 electoral college MUST GO!!!!!!!!!!

— J. Pine

137. November 4, 2008
4:16 pm

In Oregon we vote by mail. I think the whole country should vote by mail, so there is no excuse about voting. Every registered voter gets a ballot and can turn it into any public library or designated drop off. It’s a great system, plus it’s much cheaper then having thousands of polling stations.

I’m glad that Mr Robbins made a fuss about not being on the voting roster! I’m glad he was able to vote, but think about all the other folks who couldn’t spend the time making sure they could vote. I hope NYC and other states rethink how we vote in the future and go to mail in ballots!

— Sam

138. November 4, 2008
4:17 pm

Rather horrifying scenario.

Tim Robbins can perhaps find some comfort in the fact that his actions can serve as a practical example of what people should do in this situation. Do not settle with provisional ballots and instead insist on having the registration issue corrected immediately.

Hopefully this relatively well publicized event can add to the awareness of this problem which is a cancer in our voting system.

— Mark

139. November 4, 2008
4:17 pm

I voted in the Canadian elections a few weeks ago. Everyone in Canada is guaranteed at least 3 hours off work, when the polls are open, to vote. There was a line-up that took about 2 minutes. I was not on the voter roll, so I had to go to another table, show my ID, and fill out a form before I could vote. It took almost 5 minutes. The guy I voted for lost, but I was very proud to be part of the process. I have voted in about 10 elections, in three different provinces, and this is typical.

When I read about archaic voting machines, provisional ballots, people being struck from voter rolls, polling place challenges, and 10-hour line-ups, I really feel for my American brothers and sisters.

Kudos to everyone who puts up with the inconveniences, rain, and bureaucratic nonsense to exercise their right to vote. You earned it!

— Paul

140. November 4, 2008
4:18 pm

My voting machine this morning looked like something from the Soviet Union — a big steel box with a huge red lever. My colleague had asked a poll worker how to use it but unfortunately the poll worker did not know. My other colleague waited an hour for someone to fix his voting machine.

Sigh…and I didn’t even get a “I voted today” sticker — maybe because I didn’t.

— Miss Wang

141. November 4, 2008
4:21 pm

He’s an American 1st and an activist second, what could have possibly happened between the primary elections and now that would have made his name up and disappear from the polling place he’s voted at for the past 15 years??

I agree that this was a blessing so voters could see that it does happen. Hats off to Mr. Robbins for the efforts he himself made to make his vote count!!

— stayhumble

142. November 4, 2008
4:21 pm

T. Robbins did exactly the right thing. Denied a vote even by those workers who KNOW your and KNOW you are registered is not the time to sit down calmly. I cannot believe the number of above stories, muliplied by how many more? Shame on NYC! Go Tim Robbins!!!

— Wendy

143. November 4, 2008
4:22 pm

you can’t judge the country’s voting system by New York City. I mean, come on, this city is in the dark ages in many ways. Ages behind the rest of the country in education, transportation, economics, etc. Antiquated voting machines are really the least of our worries, especially when the races in question are not even contested.

— billy the kid

144. November 4, 2008
4:25 pm

The same exact thing happened to me at my polling location in NYC! After waiting on line for 2 hours, I reached the front and gave my name. They indicated I was not in the registration book and would have to fill out an affadavit ballot. All this as the two workers at my booth started arguing and requested not to work together. I have 0% confidence my vote will even count. I came back to the office to look up my name in the NYS registration - and I am, in fact, still there and listed as active.

All this… after I’ve been waiting for this moment for the last year. So disheartening. I don’t understand it.


145. November 4, 2008
4:26 pm

The same thing happened to me..and I DID vote in the primaries. i have since moved…but am still in the exact same district. Somehow my name was removed. I did not directly notify the board of elections so I’m guessing this is why they kicked me off the rolls???? I never got anything in the mail about confirming address either–though that could be failure of postal service to forward my mail. bureaucratic failure all around!

— lg

146. November 4, 2008
4:29 pm

I had moved from one town in Arkansas to another. When I went in to change my address for my driver’s license, I also filled out a new voter registration form. A few months later was the 2004 presidential election. I went in to vote and found I wasn’t registered. When I explained I registered to vote when I got my new driver’s license, the lady at the poll said, “Oh, they forget to send those to us all the time!”

— Linda

147. November 4, 2008
4:29 pm

There was absolute chaos at the Chelsea polls this morning. Disorganization, people pushing and shoving to get out of the polling place because there was no clear egress, people standing in lines for the wrong assembly districts because they hadn’t been directed properly; people being told they weren’t on the lists, people incorrectly directed when their name hadn’t been read correctly by the poll workers.

There’s no excuse for any of this. Period,

— Elena

148. November 4, 2008
4:30 pm

I successfully voted (Democrat) this morning in Brooklyn on one of the old machines with the big red lever. Long-ish lines with about a 20-minute wait but no drama. I happen to love these machines and will be sorry to see them go. Pulling that lever back with the “CHUNK” seems much more real than anything electronic.

— Carey

149. November 4, 2008
4:32 pm

Well, that’s what you get for not living here in Delaware:)

No one pays any attention to us here, but at least our names stay on the registration lists.

— Jim

150. November 4, 2008
4:32 pm

I am an American living overseas registered to vote in NYC. I sent for my absentee ballot from Manhattan Borough Board of Elections in PLENTY OF TIME for them to send it. Today is election day and I STILL HAVE NOT RECEIVED MY ABSENTEE BALLOT. This is a DISGRACE, and I am DISGUSTED, and I wonder how many others are in my shoes. I hear Bloomberg cut their funding. In any case, it is inexcusable. Fortunately I did do a write in ballot and sent that in time, but I wonder how many others have not received their absentee ballot???

— Julia

151. November 4, 2008
4:33 pm

There is too much room for human error in the New York “system.” This morning I was directed to three different lines, each of them staffed by people who seemed overwhelmed by the task, and even to some degree illiterate. Like Tim Robbins, I have been voting in this location for many years and was told they couldn’t find my record and I would have to fill out an affidavit. I asked to take a look at their papers (which itself seems like some sort of violation of system integrity, but to my benefit today) and immediately found my record, and voted. But what about the people who may not be as persistent as I was? Do they just go home in frustration without voting?

For what it’s worth, it also amazes me that no ID is called for, all I have to do is enter my signature next to the signature they have on record. Seems very easy to manipulate.

— Andrew Stauffer

152. November 4, 2008
4:33 pm

this happened to me this morning as well. i verified my status through the site https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx and it showed my correct address and district. however, when i showed up, the ladies at the desk couldn’t find me on the voter roll. so i went to another district desk and they told me that there should be supplemental books of registrants. so i went back to my district desk and they said they didn’t have any supplemental lists but i insisted that they must! so they spent the next few minutes and eventually found the supplemental list! (of course i wasn’t in that list either.. murphy’s law). but point is, somehow these ladies working the desk didn’t even know of the supplemental list and obviously made others fill out the affidavit ballot unnecessarily.

— ak in l.e.s.

153. November 4, 2008
4:34 pm

The broken election process just confirms that everything in this country from the economy, to health care to our democracy is in an exagerated bubble that is ready to burst. We should change the name of our nation to the Underachieving States of America–everything we do is overrated. We need to take a good look in the mirror, stop overeating, overspending, doing chest bumps over the smallest achievement and look into the broken foundations of this country. The biggest indicator of how we have deluded ourselves is all of the cosmetic surgeries that we need to feel good about ourselves-we’re all fluff and fake breasts, no substance. We make fun of Europe, Canada, Russia, Mexico and a whole host of what we think are “loser” nations and we can’t even make the election process efficient and above-board. Two jackasses from Montreal prank call the women who may end up as President and she goes along, not a brain in the world. But people love her, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah! Take off all of those flag lapel pins and car stickers and quit singing God Bless America in the seventh inning and start becoming real patriotic citizens who work for the common good and disdain the facade that we have made out of this Republic. Hopefully today will be the first day that we get down to work to earn this lofty status that we think we occupy in the world.

— Judge Roy Bean

154. November 4, 2008
4:34 pm

There’s a reason why Jimmy Carter, who oversees and is willing to certify elections in other countries, is unwilling to do in the U.S.. I

t’s because of shennanigans, deliberate or accidental, of our electoral process.

— Joe

155. November 4, 2008
4:37 pm

I was forced to fill out a paper ballot this morning because the ONE voting machine for my district was broken. How is it that at a location with 10 districts voting in one place, I had the luck to be matched with the broken machine? I work, and do not have the time to traipse around the city, or wait around for machines to be fixed. I arrived at my polling place at 7am. How was this machine not tested? It broke in the first hour that it was open?!

— Kati

156. November 4, 2008
4:41 pm

I can understand why Mr. Robbins got upset. We all trust the process less and less. Is there any wonder why? Look what happened in the last two elections. I don’t blame him for wanting to make sure his vote counts, every one does…or should…

— Sherri S

157. November 4, 2008
4:42 pm

Please get the facts straight about voter registration. If you move, your voter registration DOES NOT get transferred automatically and immediately, as claimed by Gesa P. It is up to YOU to notify the supervisor of elections of your change of address. Your supervisor of elections is a great resource to get the facts about registration and election rules.

— Beth

158. November 4, 2008
4:45 pm

This is the why we citizens of real, functioning democracies (I have dual Canadian-British citizenship) roll our eyes when America spouts off about being “the leader of the free world” and “a shining city on a hill.”

It is not difficult to run an efficient, neutral electoral system. All the other advanced democracies do it. None of us would tolerate America’s dysfunctional, nineteenth-century system. The fact that your farrago of a system persists, and that these travesties happen at every US election, cannot be accidental.

— Matthew Hughes

159. November 4, 2008
4:46 pm

Maybe NYC thought he was a felon due to “Shawshank” and made him ineligible?

— Dirty

160. November 4, 2008
4:46 pm

Citizens of New York, please implore your state legislators to institute early voting. Thirty states have done so, including Florida, where I live. I voted two weeks ago, and although I had to wait an hour, the process was relatively painless. One advantage of early voting is that if there are any problems such as those experienced by Tim Robbins, there’s plenty of time to address the issue without resorting to a provisional ballot, or affadavit voting. I wonder why we can’t have voting on Saturdays and/or Sundays like most other countries do!

— Robin

161. November 4, 2008
4:48 pm

Why did Mr. Robbins have to go to the Board of Elections office instead of a poll worker simply calling them and performing the verification over the phone? Particularly in light of the possibly 200,000 other de-listed voters that #8 (Beth) alluded to.

I assume that it wasn’t because the Board’s switchboard can’t handle 200,000 calls, since their office presumably can’t handle 200,000 visitors.

My admittedly cynical thought is that bureaucrats simply hoped that if they ignored the 200,000 problems they would go away.

— Joe C from Austin

162. November 4, 2008
4:49 pm

I had to file a provisional ballot today too for a similar reason. When I moved, I filed a change-of-address form for my voter registration. Apparently they processed the “unregister at old address” part of the change, but never processed the “register at new address” part. So when I got to the polls today they couldn’t find any registration for me, at either address. They told me my only option was to file a provisional ballot.

— Rick Wash

163. November 4, 2008
4:51 pm

“Late Tuesday afternoon . . . a spokeswoman for the city’s Board of Elections said that Mr. Robbins actually had two registrations on file . . .” And the election officials apparently found neither of them. I mean, was that bit of information offered by the Board as some sort of explanation?

— kevin

164. November 4, 2008
4:53 pm

My next door neighbor had the same thing happen, here in CA. She has lived at the same address for 7 years. This year, she was not on the local voter rolls for the primary. She took the required steps to solve the problem, but when she went to vote this morning, she was STILL not on the rolls. So she had to cast a provisional ballot. She’s not worried about her choice for President because Obama will win handily here, but we had several important state and local propositions and measures on the ballot, some of which will be very close. We need for every state to have a MAIL IN BALLOT system like Oregon’s. It is ridiculous to have these problems with voter rolls, malfunctioning machines, and making working people wait in line hours to vote. How can some people take that much time off from work?


165. November 4, 2008
4:53 pm

If this happenned in any other country in the world there would be cries of fraud and rigged elections!
It’s amazing that America can still cling to the idea that they are the leading democracy in the world when people are unceremoniously denied the right to vote, when it takes 5 hours to have your vote registered and when the voting methodologies haven’t changed in the 8 years since the election was stolen.

— Matt Ashby

166. November 4, 2008
4:54 pm

Add me and my wife to the long list of people who were not on the voter list this morning despite taking all necessary and timely steps to make sure we were registered in our district. I reassured my wife that of course our votes would eventually be counted, but now I feel like a fool.

— Ben

167. November 4, 2008
4:54 pm

I am from Minnesota. We have the highest voter turnout in the nation. We believe in the abolute right to vote for everyone who is eligible to vote. Therefore we have set up a system that invites all people to come and cast their vote. We have same day, on site voter registration available which helps a lot. I waited for 20 minutes this morning and was done voting in 5 minutes, once I made it to the booth. The lines may be longer at other places, but by and large, all will get through today with very few hiccups. A very simple solution for other states is this: Look to states who do this right and copy what they do. It never ceases to amaze me how tightly we Americans cling to our same way of doing things even to the detriment of our electorate and their basic right to vote. I mean, is it demeaning for New York state to look to Minnesota as the model for a clean, orderly voting system? Is this an ego problem for NY state election officials? The solution is simple. Look to who is doing it right and immitate it. We could probably fix a lot of things in this country if we used this very simple approach. But then, some major league ego reduction would have to be employed to carry it out. Maybe some Prairie Home Companion style of humble pie needs to be eaten prior to the next presidential election. Being Minnesota Nice, we’ll do the baking.

— Mary

168. November 4, 2008
4:59 pm

Happened to me too.

— Henry

169. November 4, 2008
5:00 pm

In Oregon, ballots were mailed Oct. 17, and I voted at my kitchen counter on Oct. 27. Although every library has a ballot drop box, one of which is drive-up, I chose to drive to the Washington County elections office. There was no drive-up drop box, so I had to wait briefly for a parking space as the parking lot was almost full. There was a well-labeled slot in the vestibule.

After HAVA was implemented, I had assumed that voting would be as smooth everywhere as it is in Oregon.

What went wrong?

Help America Vote Act of 2002

— steve

170. November 4, 2008
5:01 pm

I didn’t vote for Hilary, but I’m on the side of this Hilary. Being frustrated is understandable–taking it out on people who are not responsible for the problem is childish. And all that serves to do, in the long run, is to discourage the more competent people from wanting to do this in the future. They’ve got better things to do than to be blamed for problems beyond their control.

— Dan

171. November 4, 2008
5:06 pm

Hey whiny conservatives, even if this happened to Dick Cheney himself, it would be outrageous that he couldn’t vote. Enough with the constant “socialist,” “attention whore,” “poor celebrity” junk already! Just because your stale politics is going to die a long overdue death after this election, don’t pout like ignorant children.

Good job, citizen Robbins!

— Rich K.

172. November 4, 2008
5:09 pm

I lived in Manhattan in the 1980s and 1990s, and my name was missing from the registration records at every election. I re-registered between elections, and always had to complete a provisional ballot. Now I wonder if my votes were ever counted.

— Susan P

173. November 4, 2008
5:12 pm

As Rachel Maddow said last night, making people wait for hours to vote amounts to a “poll tax,” because most people can afford to wait for hours to vote, or are physically unable to do so. Expecting an aged person, or someone taking care of children, to wait for hours is clearly unreasonable. But that’s just what the GOP would like. Shame on them.

And most people would be too scared of being arrested to insist that they be allowed to vote, as Mr. Robbins did.

— Marshall

174. November 4, 2008
5:13 pm

It’s clearly another piece of evidence proving the “vast, right-wing conspiracy”…this time mobilized to insure that has been celebrities, that noone will otherwise listen to, have something to rant about.

— scott

175. November 4, 2008
5:14 pm

Amazing how you NY’ers expect perfection in an antiquated system involving such the massive voter numbers….

76. November 4, 2008
5:16 pm

I’m really beginning to worry that this election will indeed be stolen. In my precinct in Louisville, KY my polling place is in a police recruit training center. There’s a large parking lot out front and a larger one in back, but you’d only know the back lot was there if you’d been there before. It isn’t visible from the street and you can’t easily get to it unless you know how the streets wind around back there.

I’ve been voting at this location for over 10 years, and today is the first time that there seemed to be a “blue flu” convention going on. The front lot was full of so many police cars that there were only a couple of handicapped places and maybe four other spaces to park. Police cars were even parked on the street in front of the building.

I had to wait almost 20 minutes to find a parking spot. Two other people waiting finally left. A policeman walked by and told us we couldn’t “block” the parking lot. I waited anyway, but I wonder how many other people this happened to today - how many people came on their lunchbreak or at the only time they could, and couldn’t vote because they couldn’t find a place in the lot or on the street to park? Most of the street is a “no parking” zone.

Oh, and might I mention that my precinct is roughly 75-85% African American?

Absolutely shameful. Do we still have a democracy? I wonder.

— kentuckywoman

177. November 4, 2008
5:18 pm

Tim Robbins has every right to demand why his name went missing. You would think that with the huge amounts of campaign and funds devoted to let people go out and vote, that they would fix this very basic problem — that of making sure the voters’ list is updated. Maybe this is something the new president will make sure will be changed.

— groucho

178. November 4, 2008
5:20 pm

Tim’s outrage and concern for others would have been more chivelrous in Dayton, Ohio.

— Sean

179. November 4, 2008
5:20 pm

My husband is judge of elections in our town in Pennsylvania. He doesn’t take offense when people become upset, angry or even enraged; why wouldn’t they be? Few people have the time to travel to the county seat and back again because someone else made a mistake. Most people here feel lucky to have a job, and many people cannot leave their jobs for hours on election day. Many people do not have a car to travel to the county court house. A provisional ballot is a waste of time. So people who today waited in long lines for an hour or more to find their names mysteriously missing from the rolls, were denied their right to vote. There are no substitutes for poll workers who have an emergency, the number of machines is inadequate, there are no paper ballots if one of the two machines breaks down and the emergency line to the election bureau is invariably busy. The election board refuses to allow people to split the job, so most election officials, who are retired people, work from 7am to 8 or 9pm, and in an election such as this one, are lucky to find time to run to the bathroom, let alone eat lunch. It’s an exhausting day for a younger person, and most people get fed up and stop volunteering. The powers that be are very happy to have their base vote, but the whole system is set up to discourage universal participation. Voters should be incensed. No other democracy would tolerate such a slap-dash system.

— annemarie

180. November 4, 2008
5:22 pm

I have been voting in Canada for 40 years. I have never been refused the right to vote at a polling station. If, for some reason, we are not on the voter’s list, all we have to do is provide the head poll clerk with picture ID and proof of address.

Canada’s system is pretty basic. We pencil in an X on a paper ballot. I have also worked at the polls and we counted the paper ballots before we left in the evening. It never took more than a couple of hours after closing time.

Maybe some of your election people should get back to basics.


— Tricia in Canada

181. November 4, 2008
5:24 pm

For everyone that is saying Tim Robbins has a right to get angry…did you read the whole article. It turns out he was registered under two different names and two different addresses which is illegal. When your full name is Timothy, why would you register under Tim? When he moved, dopey probably decided to register again instead of just arranging for the registration to be moved. Millions of people move around and don’t have trouble with registrations. And as for the last minute registrants….shame on you for signing up at the last minute.

— Liz

182. November 4, 2008
5:27 pm

Yet another reason I love being a permanent absentee voter. All states should really promote it as The way of voting. No lines, just relaxation.

— J Newman

183. November 4, 2008
5:28 pm

Remember, the politicians who benefit from voter suppression are typically the Republicans.

— Harvey

184. November 4, 2008
5:29 pm

Following the vote today with great interest. Here our elections are handled by Elections Canada, a non-partisan entity. We use paper ballots and vote in a school close to my home. I’ve never had to wait even five minutes. This year our conservative minority government made it law that for the first time a voter has to show a picture ID and I understand that people were turned away from the polls for not having one. This is a travesty and we only had about 59 per cent of the electerate whose votes were counted. I hope your election is more successful this time around.

— moodygirl

185. November 4, 2008
5:31 pm

I live in CA, and have signed up to be a “Permanent Absentee Voter”. I vote by mail now in every election, no problems. So much easier than waiting in line at the polls, although I guess it has its issues also.

My ballot was sent to my parent’s house along with my mom and dad’s. Apparently, my dad put his ballot in my envelope (pre-printed with my name) and signed his name. He then told me that he talked to someone who worked at the polls and I can just cross out his signature and write my own on top.

So who knows if my (or anyone who votes by mail) vote gets counted. At least I got a real ballot.

— marisa in ca

186. November 4, 2008
5:31 pm

Ironic that a country that exports democracy by force has one of the most incompetent and backwards electoral processes going in the Western World. In modern democracies voting is managed centrally by a national government organisation and designed to encourage all adults to participate. In the U.S. it is designed to disenfranchise as many people as possible. But you guys don’t take democracy seriously, do you? Sarah Palin’s nomination is proof of that.

— Chris

187. November 4, 2008
5:33 pm

New York, NY - My name also did not appear in the book this morning even though it was the same place that I voted 4 years ago and I have not changed any information. Apparently there were letters for address verification that were sent to many NY’ers. If you did not respond to the letter (or did not receive it), your registration was changed to “inactive” and you were removed from the voter log. I was able to do a written ballot but I know it will never be counted. Apparently this could have happened to up to 1.5 million NY’ers. See the link


— DH

188. November 4, 2008
5:40 pm

I had to vote via affidavit ballot as well… despite having voted at the same place in Queens for 8 years. The Board of Elections (212) NYC VOTE), told me - and I quote: “The reason you are no longer in the voter registry is because you are an independent and didn’t vote in the primary.” I am so livid. This is criminal negligence! If Bloomberg wants my vote, he better fix the NYC board of elections, otherwise I won’t be on the voter register anyway…

— K

189. November 4, 2008
5:40 pm

While there is no excuse for election day foul ups and long lines, most countries make election days a holiday so people can stand in line to vote. Feeling pressured to go to work rather than stand in line or appeal your inability to vote is undemocratic and disproportionally affects poor and middle class voters.

— wls abroad

190. November 4, 2008
5:42 pm

I had the exact same experience as Mr. Robbins, but on the Upper East Side at RFK School on East 88th Street. I was at the polling place when it opened at 6am, and was told I was not a registered voter. I am, in fact, a registered voter, having resided at the same address for ten years, and having voted at the same location during this year’s primary. None of the election officials at the site were willing to take the time to find my name in the ledger. The choice of going to Varick Street was not available to me, due to scheduling problems. I was told by one election worker at the polling place to “go vent somewhere else.” Another told me I was out of luck. I asked ten times to see a Poll Watcher, and was refused. A police officer tried to help, but told me he had never seen such chaos in his life. I ultimately signed an affidavit, but it was not placed in a secure place, and I understand it may not be counted. I immediately confirmed, both online and by internet upon reaching my office, that I am a registered voter and should have been permitted to vote. I feel that I have been disenfranchised of the most fundamental right available to me in a democracy–the right to vote. Inexcusable. This should be illegal.


191. November 4, 2008
5:43 pm

Chris, I don’t know what country you’re from, but you seem very ignorant. Our voting system is one of the best in the world, but in a DIVERSE country of 300 million people, there are going to be some issues. For the majority of Americans voting works just fine. We take democracy very seriously, and I’m going to be overjoyed to watch Obama get elected tonight.

— Patrick

192. November 4, 2008
5:44 pm

If any other Canadians have advice for us, please chime in. Don’t confine yourselves with just the American voting process, we would like hear about your free, public, universal, healthcare coverage too.

Thanks so much!

— Sean

193. November 4, 2008
5:45 pm

Why isn’t every tax-paying citizen AUTOMATICALLY registered to vote in the district based on the postal address on their tax return??? The only time a person needs to submit paperwork should be if, for some legitimate reason, he/she wishes to be registered in a different district from the address on his/her latest tax return. If voting is every citizen’s right, why do we tolerate this stupid, goddamned system of obstacles that waste everyone’s time and tax payers’ money just so lots of people end up not able to vote?

— Chi

194. November 4, 2008
5:50 pm

My goodness! “I had to drive around for 10 minutes to find a place to park.” “I had to stand in line for (days) over an hour.” And poor Tim or Timothy Robbins felt intimidated. But it was he who blew his own registration. But didn’t the computer know who he was? My goodness! Doesn’t evryone know he’s a famous actor? Golly.

— Charlie

195. November 4, 2008
5:51 pm

I arrived at 11 am this morning to the polling place on 60 Division Avenue in Williamsburg to find that my name was not on the list.
I have voted in the three previous presidential elections and this has never happened before.
I ended up filling out a paper ballot, I just hope it gets counted.

— Jesper Haynes

196. November 4, 2008
5:52 pm

Happened to me this evening. The poll workers seemed generally incompetent and said the issue of disappearing names was common today. They didn’t seem concerned about this alarming fact at all.

The New York City Board of Elections should not be permitted to run a frog jumping contest.

— Bill

197. November 4, 2008
5:54 pm

America is becoming a third world country with nukes. We knew about these election problems long ago.

This increasing illiteracy and inability to get things done is not a good trend and is closely related to our current economic problems.

Certainly there are still many bright spots but they are increasingly farther away from the mean.

Not good…

— ralph tyler

198. November 4, 2008
5:55 pm

Good grief. I certainly hope the writers of the article are tracking these comments and plan to DO something about it.

I recently moved to Florida, and voted here for this election, and let me tell you, it’s much much better here. And that says alot! to put it mildly.

If the NY results are close (defined as within the delta of the provisional ballots), I hope all legal hell breaks loose. This is one time that I welcome the lawyers!

EVERY VOTE MUST COUNT! (but only once, of course …)

— Incredulous-in-Boynton-Beach

199. November 4, 2008
5:55 pm

This is a serious issue and each of us should follow through, thoroughly and painfuly, and resolve. I plan to as it happened to me, as well.

However, Tim Robbins can get over himself. In my humble opion

— Pamela Watkins

200. November 4, 2008
6:02 pm

Yep, I had the same problem here in Manhattan this morning…

I’d checked my status earlier at the NY State Board of Elections web site (where I’m listed as ‘Active’) and I’d also taken the precaution of bringing along the Transfer Notice I recently received form the Board of Elections, showing my new address and designated polling station… yet when I stepped up to vote my name was not on the rolls… in the end I had to make do with a paper ballot and was not a happy camper for it (I was told it was the only option)… the young woman trying to help me told me this same problem (registered voters not appearing on the rolls) was happening ‘every few minutes’…

From what I understand, all NY county databases were recently consolidated into a single, state-wide database… no doubt a major undertaking, but for goodness sake how could they mess up something so important so badly and not know…?

pretty shoddy stuff… shameful…

— ad
201. November 4, 2008
6:04 pm

isn’t what happened to tim robbins called “caging” and isn’t it illegal?

— mike

202. November 4, 2008
6:04 pm

So far no reports of what happened to my late mother-in-law four decades ago in Waterbury, Conn. After years of apathy, she decided to vote. When she did, she was told that she already had voted. Records showed that while she didn’t know it, she’d been voting regularly for several years.

I can’t help wonder whether she and many residents of other cemetaries voted in today’s election.


— bill lawrence

203. November 4, 2008
6:08 pm

Only way to overcome the games played . . .

Is massive turnout

And good poll watchers .

— James Northrup

204. November 4, 2008
6:10 pm

my name disappeared from the voter list at my polling site as well and i filled out an affidavit. i hope the vote gets recorded!! i would be crushed if a child or grandchild someday searches the voting records and finds the i “did not” participate in this historical election.

— james

205. November 4, 2008
6:12 pm

Unbelievable that we can’t make this process work better for everyone. The workers in my polling place mean well, but seem confused and easily distracted. Besides misplacing their glasses frequently (they all seem to be retirees,) they rely too much on paper documents that get passed around and mis-marked. Some customer-service training would be in order along with some real authority based in each polling site to deal with questions and problems.

It must get better.

— KathyA

206. November 4, 2008
6:24 pm


“Our voting system is one of the best in the world.” And you call me ignorant. Priceless. Try reading some of the hundreds of posts on this blog. These are just a small sample in NY. Voters would be experiencing these problems throughout the US.

I am from Australia where like most modern democracies the electoral system including voters registration is managed by a single organisation. In the U.S. it is managed by hundreds of seperate of state, county and city organisations using disparate, uncordinated voting and registration systems. Many intending voters find themselves unregistered. Elections are held on a working day to disenfranchise the working class. We vote on a Saturday and very rarely have to queue to vote.

How can your system be the best in the world when only a quarter of the adult population vote. Breathtaking ignorance like yours will ensure that the US electoral system is nvever much better than many third world countries. In a real democracy voting is a right, not a privelege.


— Chris

207. November 4, 2008
6:40 pm

I find it absolutely astonishing when these liberal, wining, overly pampered, pain in the backside actors believe they need to step up to the proverbial plate, voice their political opinions and expect the world to stop an listen, especially you Tim Robbins. Somehow you believe that America sincerely cares about you and your self-important, elaborately-worded rhetoric which only succeeds in making you sound more pretentious than you already are.

You live in a fantasy world with your multi-million dollar homes, exotic cars and plastic woman, believing that you’re just simple everyday Joe who everyone adores and that America will embrace every little bit of crap that comes out of your mouth simply because of who you are. The truth is Tim, we don’t care… you’re not real, and quite frankly your an embarrassment. You want all of us to believe that you are no different, yet when a problem occurs like today, you make it out to be some frickin’ conspiracy. Suddenly it’s all about you, and because you’re Tim Robbins the world must stop and correct itself, just for you.

Today was a simple mistake that most likely will happen to democrats and republican alike. I know you feel more important than all of us, but your not. The evil empire and its flag that you so willingly choose to live under, did not conspire to cause you grief, it happens, welcome to the real world Tim, it stinks being a common Joe doesn’t it…

— stepup10

208. November 4, 2008
6:44 pm

This also happened to me up at my voting center in Harlem on 127th street this morning. After standing in line for 2 hours and showing them the voter registration slip that had been sent to me by the NY Board of Elections, I was outraged to be told that I “wasn’t on their list” and that I could only fill out an affadavit ballot. This is ridiculous! I am so upset—mainly at the fact hat no one there told me that I could go down to Varrick Street and fight for me right to cast a proper vote that day! Had I only known, I might not have spent the day feeling angry and helpless….anyone know anywhere else I can complain about this???

— Emily

209. November 4, 2008
7:11 pm

I live in the UK (but voted absentee in Texas, not that it will make a difference), and have been amazed the last two years with the number of letters that we have received addressed to “Resident” informing us that no one at our address is registered to vote. I’ve returned the letters saying that we are unable to vote in UK elections as US citizens, but still, they keep sending them! It’s almost like junk mail.

Why can’t the US (either nationally of locally) register people based on address? If there is a residence, register the occupants!

The UK is sitting on the edge of its seat, watching what happens in the US tonight. Some of my co-workers are planning on waking up at 2 a.m. to see how things are going in the election. 2 a.m.! This is a world-changing event, and it will be controlled by the capriciousness of the local poll volunteers…which makes me think “I should volunteer as a poll worker when I return to the States.”

— Mike

210. November 4, 2008
7:29 pm

You guys (Australian here) spent HOW MUCH on this election - and you still don’t have a ‘modern’ way of collecting votes ? It’s obvious that the priorties of your electoral system is to waste money on advertising rather than get a simple effective system in place.

And each state has a different way of voting ? Sorry - i thought you were called the United States.

Any money (or whats left in the US) that this will occur next time.

— tonyg

211. November 4, 2008
7:44 pm

It took me 3 years to get a duplicate registration removed from the database in my county (Alameda in CA). I kept going in a showing them the duplicate mailings I’d get before each election. I was told many times “I’ll take care of this”, but it never was. I tried one last time, this last summer, because I was damn sure I was going to have my vote for Obama counted. When I got the mailing for this election I only got one copy. Whew.

While I never had trouble voting before, I was worried they’d toss my vote because of the obvious duplicate.

— e40

212. November 4, 2008
10:48 pm

What was inappropriate in Mr. Robbins behaviour was his treatment of the poll workers. His rage (and all of ours) is with the board of elections. I’m quite sure the poll workers are the most sympathetic with disenfranchised voters and frustrated beyond belief with the board of elections — after all, many of them do this work because THEY believe fervently in making the system better. That’s why they don’t deserve to be treated like idiots, “Nazis.” They’re not feeling sorry for themselves. They’re just brokenhearted.

— Jacquelyn

213. November 4, 2008
11:38 pm

Today was grueling. But even worse is reading the hurtful insults about pollworkers (the most ridiculous was “right wing”). I’m throwing in the towel. I hope some of you will step into the breach next time. I’m sure you’ll be much better being the point people for this city’s board of elections.
Good night and good bye.

— Pollworker No More

214. November 5, 2008
1:23 am

I might not be as famous as Mr. Robbins, but like him I am a native New Yorker and 50’s baby boomer….Where I voted in Sheepshead Bay, a place I have lived and voted in for the past twenty years, not only was my ballot and voter registration card missing at my polling place, but I had to fill out a paper ballot, and be further embarassed and frustrated by being directed to do all this by the election supervisor there, who was barely able to speak English!
And I don’t mean someone with a classic and disappearing legendary Brooklyn accent!…Go figure?!
Welcome to another part of the new America!

— Vic the Brooklynite

215. November 5, 2008
5:56 am

I really don’t see what all the whining (and it IS whining) is about. This situation pretty clearly had its origin in Mr. Robbins’ own actions, and inaction. If you want to be sure that your name is on the voter registry, check with the registrar BEFORE election day, - something you can do by phone where I live. Stuff like this happens all the time in organizations that have large amounts of data handled by PEOPLE that aren’t always the brightest or best paid.
On the other hand, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

— CC

216. November 5, 2008
9:15 am

I worked as an inspector yesterday, and at the end of the day, we had about 5% affidavit ballots of everyone who voted. Before deciding to file an affadavit ballot, most of the people we couldn’t find:
1. went to another district table and found themselves under previous addresses
2. were found with transposed first names / last names
3. realized that they had never actually registered (not automatic with naturalization, etc.)
4. had registered many years ago, but never voted before (too many possibilities - filed affadavit)
5. Brought it web printouts of their registrations showing the correct AD/ED but with status “inactive”. (curious - filed affadavit)

More importantly, when transcribing the results at 9:30, we found that despite having xxx voters tallied by hand and on the machine counter, we had xxx+20 votes for president! All the other machines at our location were fine.
This went into the log book for someone to review one day, but really laid bare for me the imperfections of these machines. “Old, but good” is no longer reliable.

Finally, fix the system, but don’t abuse the people trying to make it work.

— Brooklyn poll worker

217. November 5, 2008
10:31 am

In Response to Lucas who said:

“If this happened to other people, would they have the persistence Mr. Robbins has to ensure their vote counted? Hmmm…”

Had read the whole article you would see there were in fact two people with enough “persistence” to get a court order to vote… That’s pretty darn persistent in my book. I’m sure there were others like them.

— Persistence

218. November 5, 2008
12:18 pm

Yes, I too was removed as well even though I have voted in past primaries (including this past primary) and general elections. Also the night before I checked online to verify my district number to save myself time on election day. The information online was correct, so why was my name eliminated from the roll at the polls?

Also, after filling out an affidavit ballot I handed it to a poll worker who then tossed on a table. Which raises a major concern as to what eventually happened to my ballot.

I’m originally from Kentucky which by some is considered a backwards state full of rednecks. However, the state has used electronic scanned paper ballots for the past 25 years. Which has made voting fast and efficient, but New York City “The Center of World” uses machines that are out of date and barely function properly. Apparently the Board of Elections is still living in the early 20th century and has no plans to move into the 21st century.


219. November 5, 2008
12:34 pm

Gee Tim. Maybe it was because you told everyone-and loudly as I remember -that you were moving out of the country if Bush won in 2004. I guess some took you at your word which is obviously not really worth much.

— amydaisies

220. November 5, 2008
2:59 pm

Gee Tim. I don’t know. Maybe because you very loudly announced to the world that you were leaving the country if Bush won in 2004. What-you’re still here-imagine that. I guess we took you at your word-which is obviously not worth that much! And hpw funny that Susan announed that if McCain won-you all were off to Italy!! WOW-you all are nothing but a JOKE!!

— amydaisies

221. November 5, 2008
3:27 pm

Its one thing to be upset..but to treat people who are sometimes volunteering their time or at the very least not responsible for an error such as this is insulting and degrading. Even the government (especially as it gets bigger) is not perfect….just because one has Hollywood Oscar winner next to his name doesnt mean one should be treated any differently. And….I thought Tim and Susan were moving out of the country if GW got reelected!!! What happened to that plan? If you are so irritated being here…please dont let us keep you.

— kmh

222. November 5, 2008
11:16 pm

I had the same thing happen to me. I’ve been voting at the same site since becoming a citizen in 2004, and my name was missing from the voter list. Interestingly enough, every member of my household was on the list but me.

— Kam

223. November 6, 2008
7:24 am

why do they call them crying liberals ?

— Neal A Swaney

224. November 6, 2008
7:34 am

tim…did we forget the golden rule?

— joe m

225. November 7, 2008
4:54 pm

I just came across this video of Robbins trying to vote: http://www.digitalfuntown.com/videos/137

— RogersT

226. November 9, 2008
3:59 pm

I too have voted at the same polling place for 30 some years, and I too found my name missing from the register. I was very annoyed to have to use a paper ballot. In my case, I believe that they deleted my name instead of my daughter who is now living in New Jersey. Our names just happen to start with the same letter.

I wanted to make the same scene that Tim Robbins did, but I held it in. The Board of Elections had better come out of the stone age.

— joanne

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