Queens Democrats call for ‘sweeping overhaul’ to Board of Elections following Election Day problems

Queens Democrats call for ‘sweeping overhaul’ to Board of Elections following Election Day problems
Photo by Carlotta Mohamed
By Naeisha Rose

The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC) wants voting reform, as well as an overhaul of the Board of Elections because of Election Day blunders which continue to primarily affect 3.5 million voters of color across the city at polling sites.

Some of the dysfunction that occurred during the Nov. 6 midterm election included scanner failures, inaccessible poll sites and prolonged wait times at voting booth, according to a Nov. 20 statement by BLAC.

“BOE’s inadequate preparation for the general election disenfranchised an untold number of voters, which demands a sweeping overhaul at the agency,” said BLAC co-chair and City Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “Only then will we experience a greater and more diverse level of participation at the polls; one motivated by the measures we expect the Legislature to pass next year.”

After the 2016 presidential election, New York state ranked 41st for turnout across the country and only 12 percent of eligible voters in New York City voted during last year’s mayoral primary; in 2017, just 23 percent voted during the general election, according to results from the city’s Board of Elections.

“New York’s consistent bottom of the pack ranking in voter turnout will never improve absent reform but the changes we seek to our antiquated voting laws must be accompanied by a wholesale change at the city Board of Elections,” said Miller.

New York is not considered one of the states actively suppressing the vote, but in the 2016 presidential primary election, there was an unlawful purge of 200,000 New Yorkers from voting rolls. This led to a settlement between the State Attorney General’s Office and the Board of Elections to prevent that mishap and others like it from happening again, according to BLAC.

Voter purges have risen across the country in the last five years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted key components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, according to BLAC.

The crucial sections of the Voting Rights Act that were eviscerated were provisions that scrutinized any new election or voting laws before they were allowed to pass in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination and another that all but eliminated some parts of the legislation that would have made it easier for citizens to register to vote, according to the Brennan Center.

While voter purging was not the main concern of BLAC when it comes to New York City, an outdated voting system is, according to the BLAC.

New York is one of 13 states that doesn’t permit early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, while states with a history of suppressing the vote like Georgia has both, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The U.S. Virgin Islands, a United States territory, also has early voting.

“In order to improve the numerous voting issues in New York City, not only does the Board of Elections need an administrative overhaul but we must also reform the antiquated voting process,” City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said. “Our system is completely broken and desperately in need of innovation. What happened on Election Day is unacceptable. We demand proper fixes and accountability – let’s begin with early voting!”

Members of BLAC also want both automatic and same-day voter registration to further help update the voting system, according to the caucus. In terms of the Board of Elections overhaul, the caucus wants the board to hire more professional staff through standardized civil service exams and depoliticize the leadership and the BOE.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.