In 2016, we are learning that American elections are a dirty business, and now that the presidential election primary system has reached New York City, where the real New York Values – not the imagined ones – are kicking in, all of a sudden election irregularities are hitting headlines.
At CBS in New York, the headline reads, “‘Corruption In Full Force’: Voter Claims There Were No GOP Ballots In Harlem.”
Television and radio contributor John Burnett took to Twitter to voice his complaints, saying that in Harlem he was told there were no GOP ballots available.
He said he was told he’d have to wait for delivery.
That complaint sat alongside one where a precinct in Brooklyn opened late because the person in charge didn’t show up:
At one polling site at Carlton Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, the site coordinator didn’t even bother to show up and it took about an hour-and-a-half to find a replacement so the poll could open.
Also in Brooklyn, the voter roles shrank by 54,000 registered in the past few months if they had not voted in the last four years.
Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan said the mystery is easily explained: Because of retirements and staff illness, the voting list was not properly maintained in Brooklyn for six to eight months.
When staffers caught up with the backlog, he said, they purged voters who should have been removed earlier last year.
Maybe so, but this statistic caught New Yorkers off guard, and there is no indication that these people were informed that they would be removed from the voter rolls.
The board said the numbers changed because many once-active voters were moved to the inactive list.
But that list grew by only 9,154 voters — from 82,807 to 91,961 — leaving 54,404 Brooklyn voters missing.
Voters on the inactive list can still cast a ballot if they live in the city.
But the “missing” voters are out of luck — their names have been stricken from the records.
Overall, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office claims to have gotten 562 phone calls and 140 emails before 3:50 p.m., with complaints that varied from inaccessibility to having to vote via affidavit. This is the most in five years and over four times the complaint total in 2012.
The most common complaint was voters being told they weren’t registered, followed by being told they were not registered with a political party, and the denial of affidavit ballots when requested.
Other complaints included lack of privacy, accessibility issues, unclear instruction, and the availability of only blue pens when ballots state they must be marked in black.
One of the reporters from CBS in New York also claims that at his precinct the ballot scanner was not working. The same complaint was registered in Brooklyn. Wrong information was given by workers. Basically, the information directly from those who attempted to vote via reports to the Attorney General’s office and via social and regular media points to mass disorganization, so much so, that NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer has vowed to get to the bottom of whatever is going on.
“There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls, told to vote at the wrong location or unable to get into their polling site,” Stringer said.
“The people of New York City have lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic and inefficient. With four elections in New York City in 2016 alone, we don’t have a moment to spare.”
New York is not exactly used to being in the spotlight – or even a factor – in national elections. From some of the information on the ground, it does appear that regular maintenance on the voter rolls occurred and the election staffs probably underestimated turnout. That happens every year. However, given the interest in the 2016 presidential election, Stringer is right. New York does need to get its act together. Fast.