Democrats preparing to take control of New York’s legislature are plotting to overhaul voting and elections laws that were last updated to protect the power of Tammany Hall. Legislators and voting rights activists say New York’s laws are among the nation’s most antiquated. It is one of a minority of states that do not allow voters to cast a ballot before Election Day, and its absentee ballot laws are among the most restrictive in the country. After notching big gains in the 2018 midterm elections, Democratic leaders who will take over the state Senate in January say they will act on a handful of measures meant to update those laws.
Articles about voting issues in New York.
The manufacturer of the city’s jam-plagued ballot scanners misled the Board of Elections about the devices’ vulnerability to humidity, which likely contributed to the Big Apple’s Election Day meltdown, The Post has learned. Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software claimed its scanners could operate in any humidity level in a key document it filed as part of its winning bid for the $56 million contract. But ES&S contradicts itself in the very instruction manual it publishes for the model of scanner the BOE purchased, filings with authorities in other states show. “Humidity and wetness were a factor in the paper jams on Election Day and ES&S was not transparent in the contract about the implications of wetness and humidity,” said Alex Camarda, an elections expert with the government watchdog Reinvent Albany.
Voting on the weekend could be coming in 2020 for New Yorkers. An overhaul of the state’s election procedures is expected to be one of the consequences of the Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which will likely be more receptive to proposed reforms that had passed the Democratic-controlled state Assembly, including early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and a single legislative primary date. Progressive activists and Senate Democrats anticipate voting reforms will be near the top of the Legislature’s agenda when state lawmakers return to Albany in January. Many of these proposals were held up in the state Senate’s committee process during GOP control of the chamber.
New York: Over 1,000 Ballot Scanners Went Unused During New York City Election Day Fiasco | Gothamist
While thousands of New Yorkers stood in hours-long lines waiting for their chance to vote in last Tuesday’s midterm election, more than 1,000 Board of Elections scanners that could have been deployed to alleviate wait times and scanner malfunctions were kept out of circulation, according to officials on the Board. The details emerged following the first regularly scheduled meeting of the BOE since a chaotic election that saw widespread problems at poll sites in NYC. The meeting lasted less than eight minutes, but each commissioner still earned their regular pay of $300, in accordance with state law. Manhattan Commissioner Frederick Umane spoke to reporters following the brief session Tuesday. “We had over 300 scanners that were not deployed because we didn’t have room for them in the poll sites,” he said, speaking specifically about Manhattan. Umane said the BOE had consolidated some poll sites into buildings that were ADA accessible and run out of room to fit additional scanners.
When Rebekah Burgess Abromovich got in line to vote at the North Henry Street polling center in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, only two electronic voting scanners were working. After an hour of voting, the working machines were down to one. When she finally submitted her ballot more than three hours after arriving, volunteers had begun handing out emergency ballot boxes, which few understood how to use. “I was lucky because I was given the day off to vote,” she said. But other people were bailing. “I was standing next to a teacher who waited for two and a half hours, and then had to leave to teach a class. She said she had to come back.” In polling places in New York City’s five boroughs, similar stories of out-of-commission voting machines echoed: At different points on Tuesday, only one scanner worked at Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Public Library polling station, according to NBC New York. At PS 22 in Prospect Heights, all four scanners broke for much of the morning, before getting fixed at 10 am. Elsewhere, ballot sleeves were missing. Lines stretched blocks and hours long.
Republicans are attacking an initiative by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore the voting rights of former felons, holding hearings and releasing a new digital advertisement accusing him of prioritizing sex offenders over other voters. Between April and September, 30,666 parolees received a conditional pardon allowing them to vote, a member of Mr. Cuomo’s cabinet revealed this week. It is unclear how many of those people have registered, said representatives for the State Board of Elections. Previously, those convicted of felonies in New York could vote only after completing parole. The governor, a Democrat seeking a third term in November, and his team cast their effort as necessary to combat the effects of mass incarceration, and said disenfranchising voters disproportionately impacts racial minorities.
As New Yorkers go to the polls to vote in state primary elections Thursday, some voters are finding there’s no record of their registration. That includes some prominent media figures: New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister and HuffPost Editor in Chief Lydia Polgreen were among those who tweeted their names were missing from the rolls at their local polling places — meaning they can’t cast a regular ballot. They were far from the only ones. Others tweeted about their experiences having to sign an affidavit and cast a provisional ballot for the first time in years. Local New York publication Gothamist reported “mass confusion” at some polling stations. The stakes are high this year — there are contested primaries for major statewide offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. People whose names aren’t found on the rolls can still vote, they just have to sign a sworn affidavit validating their identify before they can cast a provisional ballot.
For Maria Hernandez, the chief problem in Brentwood, her Long Island hometown, has always been the streets and their state of disrepair. For Ana Flores, it was the time town officials dumped tons of construction debris into one of Brentwood’s parks. Others in the hamlet, which sits within the town of Islip, mentioned different troubles — traffic lights don’t work, trash pickups are slow, schools are underfunded — but all of them, they say, have the same root cause: The way that Islip, a mostly white community, elects its local leaders has diluted the power of Latino residents, effectively robbing them of their vote. “If you come to Brentwood, you would notice that our town looks very different from the other towns in this municipality,” said Ms. Hernandez, 53, who moved to Brentwood from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago. “There’s so much lack of interest from the town board that we feel like an island. We are like a ghost town.”
With the elections season heating up, there is increasing attention to making sure someone with bad intent cannot interfere with the vast computer systems behind the vote. The country is filled with different election systems. Some are completely computerized, others not and a lot in between. Erie County has voting machines that scan paper ballots and deliver a count when the polls close. However, those paper ballots are still available if there is a recount. New York is conducting a series of cybersecurity drills through mid-June to test how vulnerable the state’s election system is to hacking. The exercises will simulate scenarios in which a hostile group seeks to tamper with voting systems, change election tallies or otherwise undermine voter confidence. The events are meant to help officials identify problems with election security before they can be exploited.
Federal and New York state officials say they will hold drills in the weeks leading up to primary elections for the U.S. House and Senate to prevent hacking and other cyber threats to voting systems, officials said on Wednesday. The exercises, which will begin in Albany on Thursday, come amid heightened scrutiny of the nation’s voting systems following Russian hacking in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “The people of New York deserve an open, transparent election process they can trust, and these exercises are an integral part of restoring voter confidence and the integrity of our election infrastructure,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.