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Bloomberg: Poll Problems 'A Royal Screw-Up'

NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880/1010 WINS) -- There were major problems at the polls on primary day in New York and it's all connected to the debut of the state's new electronic voting machines.

New York City spent $160 million on new voting machines, but the roll out was embarrassing.

Some polling places opened as much as four hours late and thousands may have been unable to cast ballots, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

"That is a royal screw-up and it's completely unacceptable," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Sources told CBS 2 that the list of problems was astonishing, including: broken machines, missing machines, missing emergency ballots and workers totally unprepared to assist voters and resolve technical glitches.

And probably the most unforgivable was the fact that polling places opened hours late.

One polling place at 38 Water St., in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn was still closed at 8:30 Tuesday morning, two and a half hours after its scheduled 6 a.m. start.

Another polling place at 350 Fifth Ave. in Park Slope still wasn't open at 8:15 a.m.

And most ironic, one at 339 8th St. -- Camp Friendship -- didn't open until after 9, because the keys to open the voting machines didn't arrive.

That's where Public Advocate Bill de Blasio votes and he was furious.

"Literally we have right now thousands from what I've heard already, could be 10,000 New Yorkers turned away, didn't get to vote, may not get to vote, and that's outrageous," de Blasio said.

"Unfortunately, this could decide the election in some cases, literally, which machines were working and which weren't, could decide this election."

Mayor Bloomberg blamed the board of elections.

"The board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York. New Yorkers deserve better than this and the time has come to fix it," Bloomberg said.

As public advocate, de Blasio said he's going to do the oversight to try to fix the problems, but the elections in November are only seven weeks away.

"I got there at 6:20 a.m. They hadn't plugged the machines in yet. They weren't sure how to sign people in. They signed me in, they first gave me a Republican ballot instead of a Democratic ballot," Judi Wind, a Lower East Side resident, told CBS 2's Kathryn Brown reports.

State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said the reports of problems were at a typical level, no different from what was experienced with the lever machines.

"As far as we're concerned, it's the normal amount for an election day," Conklin said.

In Pelham, three of five new electronic voting machines were out of service when polls opened.

Voters in several districts were turned away or given emergency ballots because of a glitch in optical scan machines making their debut Tuesday. The machines were out of service about two and a half hours.

Strips of paper failed to pop up from the machines. Poll worker Frank Zumpano said it turned out the paper had some glue on the back.

Paper ballots are fed into the machines to be read and tabulated. The system is New York's attempt to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reports
WCBS 880's Marla Diamond: New Voting, New Problems
1010 WINS' John Montone speaks with Rangel at P.S. 175
WCBS 880's Paul Murnane with voters in Bronxville and Pelham
WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs with Rick Lazio as he votes in Bay Shore
WCBS 880's Marla Diamond with a look as some races and issues
WCBS 880's Rich Lamb on Bloomberg backing Rangel

Governor David Paterson showed up early at P.S. 175 to vote for the person he thinks should take his job.

"The public service of Andrew Cuomo over a number of years in November, I think he will be an overwhelming winner," Paterson said.

Cuomo will square off against the winner of a hotly-contested Republican primary. "I think it's going to be very close so that's why I made it my business to come out," said Claudette Abdul-Aleem. I think it's going to be very close in all categories."

Former representative Rick Lazio has sealed the GOP's endorsement.

"I've been a Contract With America congressman, I was on the budget committee that wrote the first balanced budget, I've always voted to lower taxes," he said.

However, he's fighting a late race surge from Carl Paladino, a Buffalo businessman who's been embraced by the Tea Party. "I found out that they're all just like us," he said.

Cuomo's exiting his post as attorney general left a hotly-contested void.

In the race for Attorney General, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is the statistical frontrunner and is fighting a field of five challengers.

Rice's biggest opposition was State Senator Eric Schneiderman. She's worked to cast him as an Albany insider, but he has labor unions in his corner, and has been gaining momentum.

"A lot of conflict and I think its going to be a pretty close race," one Harlem resident said.

And then there are the scandals. State Senator Pedro Espada is facing a slew of corruption charges and is in a high-stakes standoff with Gustavo Rivera, who has been endorsed by Democratic heavy-hitters, including The Rev. Al Sharpton, and several local newspapers.

"We will sing a song of victory and push our enemies out," Espada said.

Congressman Charlie Rangel's 40-year career has recently been clouded with ethics charges.  He was trying to fend off a field of five challengers, who said he was too tarnished by ethics concerns to keep his job.

He said Tuesday was the public hearing he felt he's deserved all along. "It certainly is the hearing that the writers of the Constitution decided."

At P.S. 175 in Harlem, crowds cheered wildly for Rangel as he voted Tuesday morning; one man even said he would vote for the embattled congressman twice. "It was great to see that the district has felt it necessary to reaffirm their faith in me," Rangel said.

One of the challengers he was facing is the son of the man he replaced four decades ago.

Analysts were predicting a fairly low voter turnout of about 10-percent.

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