ZIP code problems may hinder voting

COURTESY PHOTO | The League of Women Voters has weighed in on the Island's ZIP code issue.

COURTESY PHOTO | The League of Women Voters has weighed in on the Island’s ZIP code issue.

A new twist has emerged in the ongoing saga of Shelter Island ZIP codes — a possible reason why 36 long-time Islanders had to vote by “affidavit” ballot in the recent Suffolk Country Legislative special election in January.

Such votes are counted once a person’s registration can be confirmed, but that’s little solace to long-term residents who were told by poll workers their names weren’t on the Board of Elections list.

The Shelter Island League of Women Voters is looking into the possibility that a long-standing problem with Suffolk County Board of Elections lists may have resulted in dropping some voters who were listed only at Post Office boxes, but not street addresses.

Typically, voters are asked for their street addresses when they arrive at the polls to cast their ballots, while prior to elections, mailings from the Board of Elections alerting voters about their polling places would be sent to Post Office boxes.

The January voting was not the first time long-time registered voters have found their names absent from lists provided by the Board of Elections. That’s according to Phyllis Gates, a Suffolk County election inspector more than a decade. Ms. Gates said the issue of street address versus P.O. boxes was raised during training sessions, but never resolved.

The Reporter has made an inquiry to Board of Elections commissioners and also alerted Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) to the possibility that the ZIP code confusion interfering with some mail deliveries may be related to the voting problems.

Mr. Bishop said he’s investigating the situation to coordinate a response to what is becoming an increasingly complex problem.