Photo Courtesy of Scott Stringer
Comptroller Stringer and family cast their ballots on Tuesday.
By Forum Staff
A new audit released on Friday by City Comptroller Scott Stringer shows “significant breakdowns” in the operations of elections by the City’s Board of Elections “that jeopardize New Yorkers’ right to vote.”
According to Stringer, after the BOE’s voter “purge” came to light in April 2016 – between March 2014 and July 2015, the BOE’s Brooklyn Office improperly cancelled the registration of 117,305 voters based only on the fact they had not voted since 2008 – the comptroller’s office deployed staff to more than 150 poll sites to observe three subsequent elections. Auditors discovered violations of federal, state, and BOE rules at more than half of poll sites in their sample, inadequate staffing at three-fourths of voting locations, and “fundamental failures” in serving voters with disabilities at more than a quarter of BOE polling places.
“Most know about the Brooklyn purge, in which more than 117,000 residents were taken off the voter rolls. What these new findings show, however, is that there is effectively another purge that takes place beneath the surface,” Stringer said. “We’ve uncovered deeply concerning, systemic issues in the BOE’s operations. The BOE cannot be synonymous with dysfunction, and we cannot allow these egregious failures to undermine New Yorkers’ fundamental rights. Our poll workers work exceptionally hard, but the BOE isn’t giving them the support they deserve. After a thorough review of the agency, it’s clear the voter purge is a reflection of larger, systemic, day-to-day breakdowns. Elections matter, and every vote must be counted in every election. That’s why the BOE needs to fundamentally change its operations.”
According to the audit, “BOE failed to ensure that polls operated effectively and efficiently and in accordance with applicable law, rules, and guidelines, which ultimately could have impacted the ability of individuals to vote. We visited a total of 156 sites during three elections between June 28, 2016 and Nov. 8, 2016 and identified one or more deficiencies at 141 (90 percent) of those sites. Among the deficiencies found were problems with the assistance provided to voters, including those who require language interpreters and those with disabilities; problems with the information provided to voters; and problems with the accessibility of the poll sites themselves for disabled voters. We also found issues with the quality and amount of training BOE provides for Election Day workers.”
If not corrected, Stringer’s office said, “the deficiencies increase the risk that registered voters will not be provided the opportunity to vote and have their voices counted.”
The comptroller’s office made nine total recommendations, including:
• Improve training for poll workers — and consider extending training hours so all of the material that poll workers need to know can be covered;
• Ensure every poll site is fully accessible and fully staffed, including with the appropriate interpreters;
• Attract more poll worker candidates by working to increase poll worker pay;
• Evaluate a pilot program that attempted to increase the number of poll workers by allowing them to work half-day shifts, and consider implementing this program if applicable; and
• Establish a working group to identify and implement reforms.