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The polling place at MS 135 in the Bronx. Photo by Peter Soeller

By JB Nicholas and Peter Soeller

Akeem Browder, the Green Party candidate for mayor, charges that when he went to vote this morning a poll worker pointed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s name on the ballot, as well as that of Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis, but not to the names of other candidates on the ballot, including his own.

“’If you’re looking to vote democrat that’s right here,’ she pointed to the Democrat name. She pointed to the Republican name. But if you know de Blasio this is him right here,’” Browder tells Gothamist in Exile.

When Browder asked “What about Green Party?,” he says, the worker answered “I don’t know about that. I know this one. This is the Democrat running.”

At that point, Browder says, he identified himself and asked to speak with a supervisor.

At first, Browder says, the supervisor denied the poll worker did it. But, Browder says, other poll workers corroborated Browder’s account, and the worker was removed.

When a reporter attempted to gather facts about what happened from poll workers at the location, Middle School No. 135 in the Bronx, he was ejected from the school and told “We’re not authorized to have reporters in the building and we don’t have to divulge any information to you.”

A spokesperson for the New York City Board of Elections, Valerie Vazquez, said “there has not been a formal complaint and it was never addressed to the coordinator at the site.”

But a paid poll worker, who requested anonymity because she is not authorized to speak for the Board of Elections, but who is known to us and has provided reliable information in the past, tells us that poll workers receive little or no training.

Just told no politicking. Some of us are barely even trained in the basic procedures. The manual is quite detailed in all the little things but doesn’t address the questions you raise,” including what to do if people ask who to vote for or the name of a party’s particular candidate.

Not only that, our informant says, but poll workers sometimes disseminate “general mis-information. Today some workers are telling voters a failure to vote counts as a yes.”

These reports are consistent with a scathing audit released last week by the City Comptroller’s office. Investigators found legal deficiencies in 141 out of 156 polling places they visited, out of a total of as many as 1,205 throughout the city. The deficiencies include “problems with the assistance provided to voters,” “problems with the information provided to voters,” as well as “issues with the quality and amount of training BOE provides for Election Day workers.”

The Comptroller’s audit details deficiencies including what it describes as “unlawful conduct,” including electioneering inside polling places, by poll workers. “Auditors at multiple poll sites overheard poll workers, within earshot of voters, discussing candidates on the ballot.”

Browder, the Green Party candidate, says he was surprised at the extent of support he received as the Green Party candidate for mayor, which included members of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community.

They asked me to come out and do this speech and they all, all, I got texts today, they show pictures of their ballots, of my name, filled in the circle, and voted for me. This is amazing.”

I just hope they don’t thwart this election so much that it causes me my vote. Because that’s what it would seem.”


  1. I agree the poll worker’s actions were inappropriate. But the story does not match the headline ” POLL WORKERS FAVOR BLAZ…” The “S” makes a big difference, as implies that this problem was widespread – not just one poll worker at one precinct. I can tell you the little old ladies in my precinct take their jobs seriously and I have never heard any politicking.

    1. In 2000 I was a naive 18 year old Poll Watcher for the Green Party back when the machines were mechanical. According to a poll worker one machine’s leveler for Hillary Clinton for Senate was jammed. I asked, “How have you dealt with this issue?” She told me that when a voter approaches the booth she alerts them to the problem and offers a paper ballot *if they want to vote for Clinton*. I innocently thought this was a fine solution. I brought it up to the Supervisor, asked if she was aware, and she became very agitated. Moments later a police officer approached me saying that he had received complaints about me, and that he may need to remove me if I cause any more “trouble”. The PS where the election was held was next to a police station, cop cars lined the streets right up until the entrance with Democratic election materials in their windshield (electioneering within 100 ft of the polling place is illegal). This always felt strange and wrong, only years later did someone point out that they could simply throw out the machine votes and only count the papers ballots.

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