Two King’s journalism students - Morgan Chittum (Junior, JCS Major)[right] and Anastassia Gliadkovskaya (Senior, MCA major)[left] — volunteered to help cover the November midterm elections with the Google News Initiative, the Society of Professional Journalists and theGround Truth Project on a sprint project to help support Propublica's Election Land efforts. As part of the training, they learned to use tools like Google Scholar, Tilegrams and ProPublica’s Election DataBot to hunt down data such as recently-searched topical issues by district. 

On Election Day, their coverage focused specifically on the topic of voter suppression. As Anastassia and Morgan covered the race for the last Republican seat in the city, on Staten Island, they learned that some voting machines were malfunctioning in Brooklyn and causing voters to leave without casting their ballots. They immediately checked Twitter. Dozens of posts by angry voters and other reporters were already trending.

Coordinating with journalists from the Independent and the Guardian, who were already there on scene, Anastassia and Morgan were able to find out locations of affected neighborhoods, zip over to several Brooklyn voting centers and track the story in person as it developed. They used iPhones, shoulder rigs and lapel mics to speak with voters and voting coordinators to gauge the severity of the problem, how it was hindering people’s ability to vote and what it might mean for democracy.

Local art curator Cora Fisher, whom we interviewed, said she waited in line for nearly an hour before the last working scanning machine jammed as she inserted her ballot. She left not knowing if her vote, along with dozens of others, was counted. At the end of Election Day, we produced video segments of our interviews using Adobe Spark editing software.

Here is the story Morgan and Anastassia reported that evening:

By Morgan Chittum and Anastassia Gliadkovskaya

Concerns Over Voter Suppression Emerge in New York as Multiple Poll Centers Experience Malfunctions on Election Day

On this Election Day, we covered District 11 of Staten Island and District 35 of Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

District 11 is the last Republican seat in the city, leaving Max Rose (D) and incumbent Daniel Donovan (R) to battle out a tight race for Congress.

Local Lei Lah, 28, expressed concerns about voter suppression during both the primary and the current election cycles. Though she has lived on Staten Island her whole life and has never had difficulty registering to vote herself, she knows others who have.

“Their addresses are mixed up. Their names aren’t exactly right... Middle name or their surname got changed ‘cause they got married,” she said. “It’s been difficult for some of my friends, especially in Brooklyn, for some reason.” At the time of the interview, which took place at 9:30 a.m., Lah said she received a text from a friend in Downtown Brooklyn that there’s a line around his block, which he can see from his apartment.

She had heard that four out of five voting machines were down at some locations.

She expressed concerns that these malfunctions could be due to a lack of proper funding each year, which could be considered voter suppression.

“It affects people who have to go to work, who have to take care of their kids or other loved ones,” she said.

Other locals like 62-year-old Frank Carrera likewise decided to go blue this election, voting for Max Rose.

“Rose was in Iraq... I think Max Rose has a lot of good value and he was in the war... during the debate...Donovan got caught in more lies. I don’t really like Donovan. I like Max Rose. I think he was better qualified for the job.”

Carrera, however, denies voter suppression allegations in New York.

“Everybody’s saying it’s fixed, from Democrat to Republican--no,” he said.

In Brooklyn Heights at St. Francis College, 27-year-old Connor Leslie said she voted “heavily Democrat today for, obvious reasons.” Leslie claimed in all the years she’s lived in the area, voting, she’s never had to wait in as big a line.

“I take that as a very good sign,” she said. “I think that there is a huge amount of information out there, which is probably one of the benefits of social media...I think people are more aware now of what their rights are than I think even the last election, so I feel optimistic.”

As we were reporting in Brooklyn, we were tracking the development of voting machine malfunctions at several polling locations on Twitter. Coordinating with reporters from the Independent and the Guardian, who were already there on the scene, we headed deeper south into Brooklyn.

At PS 705, voting coordinator Keith Luke said the machines had shut down at 10 a.m. The Board of Elections had come but they were looking for bags into which to empty the bins full of emergency paper ballots. Luke did not definitively admit that the machines were broken, but said they were “up and down,” in between getting fixed and getting jammed. All of the emergency ballots would have to be counted by hand by Tuesday night, he said.

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson demanded the resignation of the director of the Board of Elections.

At Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, both scanners had also broken. A long line awaited a scrambling team of coordinators and a Board of Elections official as they unlocked bins, kneeling on the ground, and took piles of ballots out of the bins, transferring them to large, transparent bags.

Cora Fisher, whom we met at the library, told of a similar experience voting earlier in the day near Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Upon arrival at around 8:30 a.m., the line was already snaking out the door, according to Fisher. The first of two scanners had already broken. After waiting 45 minutes in line, she finally placed her ballot into the scanner. As the second page went in, the machine jammed.

“I have no idea what happened to the crunch of people that were behind me but it seems like it didn’t go very smoothly for the rest of the day.” There were only two machines, she said. Fisher tried calling the Board of Elections three times, but to no avail. She left not knowing if her vote was complete.

“It was a really, really disheartening thing to see and obviously raises a lot of questions for all of us and concerns.”

She expressed her outrage, stating that the malfunctions were, in her opinion, due to the fact that the state was about to vote blue.

Meanwhile, other voters at the library were completely satisfied with their voting experience, not having experienced long wait times/not having heard of the area’s earlier technological difficulties.

“I don’t think that’s voter suppression, I think that’s just New York being incompetent,” one voter commented.

“It’s New York, stuff breaks here all the time,” said another couple.

Josh Minkin, 62, described his experience as “easy,” with a little bit of a wait.

Brooklyn resident Elizabeth Isadora Gold has lived in Brooklyn for two decades.

“There’s definitely something messed up about [the current situation], because it’s in every polling place, so either the machines are not designed to accommodate a substantial number of the voting public, or they’re broken,” she said.

“I think it’s ludicrous that in a district which honestly goes blue every single time, there’s not a highly-contested race in this district. [Voter suppression] seems like a waste of energy, but maybe it’s to make it seem like there’s low turnout, except there’s obviously high turnout...This is such a politically active and leftist district that if you talk to any number of people, they will be like... ‘This is voter suppression!’ so that was kind of funny. There was no shortage of people complaining.”

Student of The King’s College Haley Davidson, 19, did not notice anything out of the ordinary in her own district in Downtown Brooklyn while voting, though she expressed concerns about voter suppression in her home state of Georgia.

“My parents voted in Georgia today, I think. I actually don’t know if they voted,” she said. “I do know that for the past week or so there has been a lot of talk about voter suppression which kind of worries me and I wanted to push my parents to maybe vote for...Stacey Abrams...I know people like my parents just tend to vote for Republican, they just see ‘R’ on the ballot, and they don’t really keep up with the news, and that’s kind of scary because a lot of people are going to be doing that today.”