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Stringer to audit NYC Board of Elections after Primary Day polling problems, voter disenfranchisement

Massive number of Brooklyn residents knocked off voter registration lists

April 19, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After reports of polling problems and voter disenfranchisement, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the city’s Board of Elections on Tuesday and announced that he will audit the agency. Photo by Mary Frost

With more than 125,000 Brooklyn residents left off the voter’s registration list and reports of closed polling sites, faulty ballot scanners, misleading voting site notifications and other voting irregularities, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the city’s Board of Elections on Tuesday and announced that he will audit the agency’s operations and management.

“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 in to their polling site,” Stringer said in a release.

He added, “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.”

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Late Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supports Stringer’s audit.

“It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists,” de Blasio said in a statement. He added, “I am calling on the Board of Election to reverse that purge and update the lists again using Central, not Brooklyn borough, Board of Election staff. We support the Comptroller’s audit and urge its completion well in advance of the June elections so corrective action can be taken. These errors today indicate that additional major reforms will be needed to the Board of Election and in the state law governing it.”

  In a letter to Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, Stringer wrote, “From Brooklyn to the Bronx, voters reported arriving at poll sites at the start of the day only to be told their site was not open.

“One voter who reached out to my office reported going to her polling site at the Williamsburg Community Center shortly after 6 a.m. only to be told that the location was not operational and the staff was unable to anticipate when it would be functional. Meanwhile, a voter in Southeast Queens reported broken machines at his poll site at the start of the day, leading poll workers to instruct voters ‘to place their ballots in a slot, and they would all get processed later.’”

Stringer said that roughly 60,000 voters received notices last month misleadingly stating that the primary election is in September, and neglecting to include the April primary date.  To remedy the mistake, the board then mailed another letter to the same voters clarifying the dates – but again, did not mention the April primary date.

In addition, many poll workers were unprepared, Stringer said. “Indeed, one voter contacted my office to report that she was discouraged from filing an affidavit ballot, after being told it would not count towards the election.”

A lawsuit has been filed, Campanello et al v. New York State Board of Elections, which seeks the “immediate restoration” of voting rights for New Yorkers who have been barred from the polls, Stringer said.

Voter enrollment data shows that the number of eligible Democratic voters in Brooklyn dropped by more than 120,000 voters between November 2015 and April 2016, “without any adequate explanation furnished by the Board of Elections,” according to Stringer.

The decrease in voter registration accounts for a 7 percent drop in registered Brooklyn Democrats, according to a WNYC analysis. 

An entire block of Clinton Hill residents was left off the voter’s registration list at one polling station during Tuesday’s primary election, according to DNAinfo.

A Brooklyn resident attending college in another city told the Brooklyn Eagle that she was shocked to find out several weeks ago that the Board of Elections had her listed as registering to vote in another town, thus being ineligible to vote in the primary.

According to the Daily News, the polling site at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn didn’t open until after 7:30 a.m. – an hour and a half after the required 6 a.m. opening.

Voters running into problems can get help through a special hotline being run by the State Attorney General’s office.

That number is 1-800-771-7755.

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