Whether you believe, or not, that voting fraud is a problem in the U.S., one thing is certain: Tidying up outdated voter rolls is sometimes easier said than done. Just ask election officials in the nation’s largest city. After an independent review found that New York City’s voting lists contained people who were dead or in prison, elections officials began an aggressive housecleaning purge in 2014 and 2015 that eliminated more than 200,000 supposedly invalid registrations ahead of last year’s elections. The result? A record number of complaints during the 2016 presidential primary from legal voters who turned up to cast a ballot, but found that they were no longer registered. “Democracy itself is under attack,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, declared last week soon after announcing plans to join a federal lawsuit against the board over the way the purge was handled.
Articles about voting issues in New York.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled an extensive voting reform package Wednesday that aims to streamline New York’s voter registration system, boost voter participation and increase voter turnout. Standing with elected officials, good government groups, union members, and voting reform advocates outside Federal Hall in Manhattan, Schneiderman released the legislation, called the New York Votes Act. The bill contains provisions to update the state’s voting systems by adding early voting, automatic and same-day voter registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, increased language access at the polls, online absentee ballots, and more. “Any law that makes it easier to vote is a good law; any law that makes it harder to vote is a bad law,” said Schneiderman, in a statement Wednesday. “New York has long been a bastion of democracy, but our state’s current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy.” New York State has seen abysmal voter turnout for years. In 2014, the state ranked 49th of 50 in the country, with just 29 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the general election. While other states have tweaked their voting laws to encourage participation, voter turnout in New York has only grown worse, with just 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential primaries.
During his State of the State tour early this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a trio of major reforms hailed as important steps toward modernizing New York’s antiquated electoral system and increasing the state’s paltry voter turnout. While they are long-called for proposals that many are pleased to see Cuomo promote, implementing these goals could be more complicated than it may seem. Two of the three reforms, early voting and automatic voter registration, were outlined in Cuomo’s 2016 agenda, but the initiatives failed to move through the Legislature last year due to opposition from Senate Republicans, who control that chamber. It is a power structure that continues into the 2017 session, meaning the road to passage is uphill, and steeply so. New York is one of only about a dozen states without some semblance of early voting. While the state already has a form of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, Cuomo’s proposal is to streamline and expand the practice. If passed, it would amount to more widespread automatic registration, but not universal.
New York: U.S. Justice Department Threatens to Sue New York State Over Voting Violations | The New York Times
The Justice Department has notified New York State officials that it may sue the state over what it says are widespread failures to comply with a provision of federal voter registration law that requires state drivers’ license applications to double as applications for voter registration, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times. In the letter, dated Jan. 6, the Justice Department lays out how the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles violates the law. The lapses “deprive numerous New Yorkers of important voter registration opportunities required under federal law,” according to the letter, which was signed by Vanita Gupta, the head of the civil rights division at the Justice Department. At D.M.V. offices throughout the state, a Justice Department investigation found, drivers’ license applications do not also serve as voter registration forms unless applicants request it, and the option is sometimes closed even to those who make a request.
New York: Justice Department Seeks to Join Suit Over 117,000 Purged Brooklyn Voters | The New York Times
The Justice Department announced on Thursday that it had filed a motion to join a lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections, alleging that the board’s Brooklyn office violated federal voter registration law by erasing more than 117,000 Brooklyn voters from the rolls before the primary election simply because they had not voted in previous elections. The filing accused the board of failing to take several steps that are normally required before a voter’s name is removed, and also raised concerns about how the board oversaw the Brooklyn office’s handling of the voter rolls. The petition by the Justice Department to intervene in a lawsuit filed in November by Common Cause New York, a good-government organization, lends significant muscle to an effort to hold the agency responsible for a chaotic Primary Day in April, when many voters in Brooklyn were surprised and infuriated to learn that their voter registrations had been canceled.
New York: Old lever voting machines could come out of mothballs for New York City runoff elections | Politico
Though the state was required to replace its lever voting machines a decade ago, it’s possible the dust could be blown off those old gray behemoths later this year. “The New York City [Board of Elections] commissioners have mentioned that they are considering using the lever voting machines for the runoff election,” state board co-chair Douglas Kellner said during a meeting on Monday. At issue is whether the city board can program electronic machines in time for a runoff election in this year’s citywide primary elections. Such a race would be held two weeks after the Sept. 12 primary if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote. The city board notes that while the idea came up during its most recent meeting, it hasn’t actually made a request to use the machines yet or even decided that would be the best way to go.
In an attempt to remove barriers to voting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose the state adopt plans for early voting. The governor said the move would make voting easier by requiring counties to provide at least one day of polling during the 12 days leading up to an election. His proposal also included plans for automatic voter registration and same day registration. … Cuomo’s early voting proposal is one of several proposals the governor has made in advance of his State of the State addresses that he will conduct in various locations beginning Monday.
The Empire State is a Democratic Party stronghold and was a vital turning point in the primaries. Yet by the end of April, the New York Democratic primary had the second lowest voter turnout (19.7 percent) of all Democratic primaries, behind Louisiana. Though Hillary Clinton had a comfortable lead in pledged delegates, Sen. Bernie Sanders was experiencing a surge, winning the previous seven out of eight states. A potential win in New York could have proved to be a catalyst for Sanders’ comeback, but the foundation of the New York Democratic Party was not set up in his favor. The primary was constricted by rules that promoted voter suppression, coupled with issues that have yet to be explained or adequately addressed. Some 126,000 voters were inexplicably purged from voter rolls in Brooklyn during the Democratic primary. The New York Attorney General’s Office would not comment on the purge as it is still under investigation. Two election officials, Diane Haslett-Rudiano and Betty-Ann Canizio Aquil, were suspended in the wake of the controversy. But the purge was just one of many issues that arose during the primary, most of which occurred in the New York City area, where Clinton’s victory in the state primary was solidified.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) will introduce a sweeping package of reforms to the Empire State’s voter registration and election laws when the legislature reconvenes next year. In a report issued Tuesday, Schneiderman said he will push legislators to adopt an opt-out voter registration system, in which any eligible citizen is registered to vote during interactions with state agencies unless they proactively decline. Similar systems have registered millions of new voters in Oregon and California. Schneiderman also said he wants to allow New York voters to obtain an absentee ballot without having to offer an excuse and to allow voters to cast ballots in person for two weeks ahead of Election Day. While early and absentee voting is a critical element of each party’s strategy for winning swing states such as Florida, North Carolina and Nevada, Northeastern states have resisted pushes to ease voting ahead of Election Day. Like New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania all require voters to offer an excuse before obtaining an absentee ballot, and none offer in-person early voting. “The right to vote is the right that protects all other rights. New York must become a national leader by protecting and expanding voting rights throughout the state,” Schneiderman said.
New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that flawed election procedures and laws led to what he called an unprecedented number of voting complaints during the state’s April presidential primary. In announcing the results of his inquiry into voting complaints, Mr. Schneiderman said his office’s voter hotline received 1,500 calls around the primary, “10 times the previous high mark.” About two-thirds of the complaints stemmed from barriers created by voter-registration rules and practices, he said. Twenty percent of the complaints involved rules or laws related to the voting process, such as reduced poll hours in some counties and voters confused about polling places that had moved. He said 12 counties, including the five that make up New York City, account for more than 80% of the complaints statewide. “The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” said Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat. He said 2.9 million New Yorkers, or about a fifth of those eligible to vote in the state, cast ballots in the primary. The New York State Board of Elections didn’t respond to requests for comment.