Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/board-of-elections 2018-11-16T12:13:49+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Assembly Committee Examines Election Administration, Eyes Voting Reforms in 2019 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8075-assembly-committee-examines-election-administration-eyes-voting-reforms-in-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/43933727620_8baa12c270_z.jpg" alt="voting booths" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Come January, Democrats will control both houses of the New York state Legislature and the governor’s office, and they have declared that after years of being stymied by state Senate Republicans, voting reform will be at the top of the 2019 agenda. But even before that new governing reality comes to fruition, Assembly Democrats, already in the majority by a wide margin, examined both voting administration and the broader laws at play during a hearing on Thursday in Manhattan.</p> <p>Though with looming new political dynamics as a backdrop, the Assembly Election Law Committee and Election Day &amp; Voter Disenfranchisement Subcommittee held what is a typical post-election hearing to discuss how to improve voting in New York, where for years the state has had some of the most regressive laws in the nation. The legislators present and those testifying focused specifically on early voting and no-excuse absentee voting as key reforms on the table, but often deviated towards criticism of the state’s entire election structure, with accompanying calls for comprehensive reform.</p> <p>New York is one of only a small number of states that does not have early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, and has the strictest party registration deadline in the country. There appears to be unanimity among Democrats about moving ahead with early voting. And while research on whether it improves turnout is mixed, it would likely foster a more diverse group of voters, who would not have to take off work to vote, and would allow election administrators to diagnose and correct problems, such as the two-page ballots that led to problems at the polls in New York City last week, at an early stage in the process.</p> <p>“People working multiple jobs, people in the gig economy or with unsteady work, are often forced to choose between selecting their representatives in government and making a living,” said Ethan Geringer-Sameth, of government reform group Citizens Union, in testimony to the committee. “For many New Yorkers, early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots would provide the first real opportunities to vote.”</p> <p>New York’s voting laws once again came to the forefront on Election Day, when issues at the polls led to long lines and numerous people leaving before voting. The fiasco renewed calls for reforms, particularly early voting, which some argue could have made a significant impact, as well as better election administration through professionalizing the city Board of Elections.</p> <p>“Early voting would have also mitigated the impact of broken scanners and its cascading effect of long lines, overcrowded poll sites, and compromised ballot security and privacy,” said Alex Camarda of Reinvent Albany, another good government group. “By holding voting on days other than Election Day, voters are distributed across many days and volume is reduced on Election Day. The Board can troubleshoot problems in advance before Election Day.”</p> <p>The Assembly has on numerous occasions passed voting reforms such as one week of early voting, and Governor Andrew Cuomo included a two-week early voting period in his budget proposal last year, but efforts have annually been stopped by the Republican-controlled State Senate.</p> <p>With control of the Senate turning over to Democrats based on last week’s election results, early voting appears poised to become reality in the state. Committee Chair Charles Lavine said, given the new dynamics of state government, the Legislature has a “unique opportunity to enact meaningful reforms,” including early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.</p> <p>Two commissioners and two executive directors of the State Board of Elections testified on Thursday, and all adopted a reformist tone, though the Board is not known as particularly progressive with regard to pushing changes to make voting easier in New York.</p> <p>Robert Brehm, one of two executive directors, said that New York’s unusually high turnout this year put a strain on the voting system, and that early voting would mitigate the stresses of high turnout and other factors such as inclement weather and a complex ballot.</p> <p>“Where many other states were using some series of days leading up to election, to allow early voting, we all had to accomplish it in one day,” Brahm said. “Certainly, we could’ve provided a better customer service process if we were able to stretch it out over a period of time.”</p> <p>Brehm and the commissioners noted several elements of early voting and absentee voting that need to be addressed for them to work, including making sure that voting rooms are adequately staffed and have enough equipment, and that the use of snail mail for absentee votes doesn’t prevent votes from being counted, as it has in the past. On the mail front, Brehm endorsed a bill in the Assembly that would allow voters to apply for absentee ballots online.</p> <p>Andrew Spano, one commissioner, signaled support for early voting while also casting aspersions on the entire system writ large.</p> <p>“Our system is basically a de facto voter suppression system, because we have all these hurdles that we have to get through,” said Spano, who served as Westchester county executive for 12 years. “There’s no motivation for the voter in some of these elections to come out. Midterm elections, village elections, school elections. They’re all decided by a fraction of the voter population.”</p> <p>The commissioners noted that early voting was not a “panacea” solution to the problems afflicting New York elections, but that as part of a package, it could help improve the situation. Other proposals included electronic poll books and the abolition of election districts, to be replaced by poll sites as an administrative unit with books organized alphabetically instead of geographically. They also signaled support for automatic voter registration, despite possible issues with implementation regarding individuals who relocate.</p> <p>The hearing was also an opportunity for Assembly members to unload on Michael Ryan, the embattled executive director of the New York City Board of Elections who has shouldered much of the blame for the administrative failures <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8053-the-3-big-reasons-why-elections-in-new-york-city-are-so-poorly-run" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on this past election day and others</a>.</p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll of Brooklyn told of his experience on Election Day. At his polling place, 350 people were stuck in line for several hours after each machine at the site broke, he said. After Carroll contacted the board, a tech was sent to fix the problem, but the machines continually broke throughout the day, leading to scores of people leaving poll sites without voting.</p> <p>“I am very hopeful that New York State and New York City have early voting, have electronic poll books, voting on demand,” Carroll said. “But why should we, as elected officials, think that the New York City Board of Elections will be able to administer any election, and especially an updated election process in the future after such a terrible track record in the last year?”</p> <p>Ryan argued that the issues this year were a result of both <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8056-voter-turnout-booms-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unusually high turnout</a>&nbsp;(though it was still under 40 percent in the city)&nbsp;and other aggravating factors, including inclement weather, and a perforated two-page ballot that led to jams when voters didn’t submit them correctly. He noted education efforts were designed on short notice and inadequate, and endorsed ideas for improving the process such as having workers from municipal agencies act as poll workers or better storage for emergency ballot procedures, as well as early voting.</p> <p>Carroll was not convinced.</p> <p>“Yeah I get it: there’s a lot of people in New York City. Guess what? That’s always been true,” Carroll said. “We need to actually make sure that we can run an election. So how are we gonna change that?”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8056-voter-turnout-booms-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Voter Turnout Booms in New York</a>]</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8053-the-3-big-reasons-why-elections-in-new-york-city-are-so-poorly-run" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3 Big Reasons Elections in New York City are So Poorly Run</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/43933727620_8baa12c270_z.jpg" alt="voting booths" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Come January, Democrats will control both houses of the New York state Legislature and the governor’s office, and they have declared that after years of being stymied by state Senate Republicans, voting reform will be at the top of the 2019 agenda. But even before that new governing reality comes to fruition, Assembly Democrats, already in the majority by a wide margin, examined both voting administration and the broader laws at play during a hearing on Thursday in Manhattan.</p> <p>Though with looming new political dynamics as a backdrop, the Assembly Election Law Committee and Election Day &amp; Voter Disenfranchisement Subcommittee held what is a typical post-election hearing to discuss how to improve voting in New York, where for years the state has had some of the most regressive laws in the nation. The legislators present and those testifying focused specifically on early voting and no-excuse absentee voting as key reforms on the table, but often deviated towards criticism of the state’s entire election structure, with accompanying calls for comprehensive reform.</p> <p>New York is one of only a small number of states that does not have early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, and has the strictest party registration deadline in the country. There appears to be unanimity among Democrats about moving ahead with early voting. And while research on whether it improves turnout is mixed, it would likely foster a more diverse group of voters, who would not have to take off work to vote, and would allow election administrators to diagnose and correct problems, such as the two-page ballots that led to problems at the polls in New York City last week, at an early stage in the process.</p> <p>“People working multiple jobs, people in the gig economy or with unsteady work, are often forced to choose between selecting their representatives in government and making a living,” said Ethan Geringer-Sameth, of government reform group Citizens Union, in testimony to the committee. “For many New Yorkers, early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots would provide the first real opportunities to vote.”</p> <p>New York’s voting laws once again came to the forefront on Election Day, when issues at the polls led to long lines and numerous people leaving before voting. The fiasco renewed calls for reforms, particularly early voting, which some argue could have made a significant impact, as well as better election administration through professionalizing the city Board of Elections.</p> <p>“Early voting would have also mitigated the impact of broken scanners and its cascading effect of long lines, overcrowded poll sites, and compromised ballot security and privacy,” said Alex Camarda of Reinvent Albany, another good government group. “By holding voting on days other than Election Day, voters are distributed across many days and volume is reduced on Election Day. The Board can troubleshoot problems in advance before Election Day.”</p> <p>The Assembly has on numerous occasions passed voting reforms such as one week of early voting, and Governor Andrew Cuomo included a two-week early voting period in his budget proposal last year, but efforts have annually been stopped by the Republican-controlled State Senate.</p> <p>With control of the Senate turning over to Democrats based on last week’s election results, early voting appears poised to become reality in the state. Committee Chair Charles Lavine said, given the new dynamics of state government, the Legislature has a “unique opportunity to enact meaningful reforms,” including early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.</p> <p>Two commissioners and two executive directors of the State Board of Elections testified on Thursday, and all adopted a reformist tone, though the Board is not known as particularly progressive with regard to pushing changes to make voting easier in New York.</p> <p>Robert Brehm, one of two executive directors, said that New York’s unusually high turnout this year put a strain on the voting system, and that early voting would mitigate the stresses of high turnout and other factors such as inclement weather and a complex ballot.</p> <p>“Where many other states were using some series of days leading up to election, to allow early voting, we all had to accomplish it in one day,” Brahm said. “Certainly, we could’ve provided a better customer service process if we were able to stretch it out over a period of time.”</p> <p>Brehm and the commissioners noted several elements of early voting and absentee voting that need to be addressed for them to work, including making sure that voting rooms are adequately staffed and have enough equipment, and that the use of snail mail for absentee votes doesn’t prevent votes from being counted, as it has in the past. On the mail front, Brehm endorsed a bill in the Assembly that would allow voters to apply for absentee ballots online.</p> <p>Andrew Spano, one commissioner, signaled support for early voting while also casting aspersions on the entire system writ large.</p> <p>“Our system is basically a de facto voter suppression system, because we have all these hurdles that we have to get through,” said Spano, who served as Westchester county executive for 12 years. “There’s no motivation for the voter in some of these elections to come out. Midterm elections, village elections, school elections. They’re all decided by a fraction of the voter population.”</p> <p>The commissioners noted that early voting was not a “panacea” solution to the problems afflicting New York elections, but that as part of a package, it could help improve the situation. Other proposals included electronic poll books and the abolition of election districts, to be replaced by poll sites as an administrative unit with books organized alphabetically instead of geographically. They also signaled support for automatic voter registration, despite possible issues with implementation regarding individuals who relocate.</p> <p>The hearing was also an opportunity for Assembly members to unload on Michael Ryan, the embattled executive director of the New York City Board of Elections who has shouldered much of the blame for the administrative failures <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8053-the-3-big-reasons-why-elections-in-new-york-city-are-so-poorly-run" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on this past election day and others</a>.</p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll of Brooklyn told of his experience on Election Day. At his polling place, 350 people were stuck in line for several hours after each machine at the site broke, he said. After Carroll contacted the board, a tech was sent to fix the problem, but the machines continually broke throughout the day, leading to scores of people leaving poll sites without voting.</p> <p>“I am very hopeful that New York State and New York City have early voting, have electronic poll books, voting on demand,” Carroll said. “But why should we, as elected officials, think that the New York City Board of Elections will be able to administer any election, and especially an updated election process in the future after such a terrible track record in the last year?”</p> <p>Ryan argued that the issues this year were a result of both <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8056-voter-turnout-booms-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unusually high turnout</a>&nbsp;(though it was still under 40 percent in the city)&nbsp;and other aggravating factors, including inclement weather, and a perforated two-page ballot that led to jams when voters didn’t submit them correctly. He noted education efforts were designed on short notice and inadequate, and endorsed ideas for improving the process such as having workers from municipal agencies act as poll workers or better storage for emergency ballot procedures, as well as early voting.</p> <p>Carroll was not convinced.</p> <p>“Yeah I get it: there’s a lot of people in New York City. Guess what? That’s always been true,” Carroll said. “We need to actually make sure that we can run an election. So how are we gonna change that?”</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8056-voter-turnout-booms-in-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Voter Turnout Booms in New York</a>]</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8053-the-3-big-reasons-why-elections-in-new-york-city-are-so-poorly-run" target="_blank" rel="noopener">3 Big Reasons Elections in New York City are So Poorly Run</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p>
The 3 Big Reasons Why Elections in New York City are So Poorly Run 2018-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8053-the-3-big-reasons-why-elections-in-new-york-city-are-so-poorly-run Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/and-cuomo-nov2.jpg" alt="and cuomo nov2" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Election Day in New York City was, as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1059871915727376384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote on Twitter</a>, “like Groundhog Day,” where yet again, voters were forced to wait in long lines as ballot scanners across the city broke down, a sign of the abysmal election administration that New Yorkers have come to expect every time they visit the polls.</p> <p>The past few elections -- city, state, and federal -- conducted in New York City have repeatedly shown instances of failure on the part of the New York City Board of Elections, an entity whose name belies the fact that it is a state-created agency charged with administering several elections each year. City BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan -- who is hired by the board’s ten commissioners and reports to them -- suggested on Tuesday, <a href="https://twitter.com/LindseyChrist/status/1059849434945806343" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a brief video</a> posted to Twitter by NY1 reporter Lindsey Christ, that the cause of the latest debacle was a combination of higher turnout, an unwieldy two-page ballot (owing to three ballot questions on the back) and wet ballots because of voters coming in from rainy weather.</p> <p>The BOE’s problems, long recognized by government reformers, some elected officials, and of course voters, came urgently to the forefront after the 2016 presidential primary, in which more than 117,000 voters were improperly purged from the rolls in Brooklyn, the city’s most populated borough. The purge, <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-board-elections-admits-it-broke-law-accepts-reforms/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">originally reported by WNYC</a>, led to a federal lawsuit against the BOE, which later opted for a settlement in which it admitted that it broke the law. But while the settlement prompted improvements to voter roll management, the BOE’s inability to smoothly run elections has stretched far beyond that one area or even the last few years.</p> <p>“I think there’s many different problems at many different levels that lead to a day like this,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group.</p> <p>In a statement, Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, who serves on the Rules, Judiciary, Health and Election Law committees, said, “Today’s problems should have been prevented. Rainy weather and high voter turnout should not be impediments to a functional election system.”</p> <p>So why is the New York City Board of Elections so dysfunctional? What is standing in the way of New Yorkers and easy voting experiences?</p> <p><strong>A Structural Problem</strong><br />Part of the reason for the BOE’s continued failures is the agency’s structure itself. Though the agency is funded by the city, and the City Council conducts regular oversight of its function after each election, it is a creation of the state. Its commissioners are chosen by county party committees according to state law -- by the top two vote-getting political parties in the five boroughs, which, for all intents and purposes, means Democrats and Republicans. Each party selects one commissioner from each borough who is then confirmed by the City Council to make up the ten-member board, which decides on everything from election management procedures to candidates’ inclusion on the ballot.</p> <p>The entire process is rife with patronage, with not only the commissioners, but most of the BOE’s staff employees appointed by county chairs along party lines. The board has been resistant to efforts by the city to professionalize its ranks, pushing back against City Council legislation that would require appointments akin to civil service jobs. Broadly speaking, criticism of the board boils down to the belief that it is more concerned about keeping the county party leaders happy than it is about delivering good service to voters, and that it is not necessarily well-prepared to deliver top-notch service even if that was the main focus.</p> <p>Immediately following the 2016 election snafu, Mayor Bill de Blasio even <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/389-16/mayor-de-blasio-make-20-million-available-city-board-elections-vital-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">offered</a> the BOE an additional $20 million to implement reforms including hiring an outside consultant and creating a blue ribbon panel to conduct a top-to-bottom review of systemic issues, providing more transparency in hiring, and new methods of communication with voters. The BOE, however, refused the offer. &nbsp;</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, who called for Ryan’s resignation on Tuesday, said in a phone interview that there is a dire need for reforms at the state level. But, he insisted, “Until that happens, we need competent leadership at the staff level from the Board of Elections.”</p> <p>Johnson said the reasons Ryan gave in the video on Twitter, including the rainy weather and higher turnout, were “predictable” factors. “Those aren’t valid reasons to have hundreds of machines breaking down...That did not give me confidence in him understanding the depth of anger that New Yorkers felt at the polls,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Voting and electoral laws</strong><br />New York employs what good government groups call “passive voter suppression” with election and voting laws that tend to discourage turnout. The state is one of 13 that does not have early voting, which means that the nearly 13 million registered voters across the state must cast their ballots in a 15-hour period on the day of the general election (During the September primary, poll sites were only open for nine hours in 49 out of 62 counties). Besides depressing turnout, the lack of early voting also forces the BOE to resolve issues as they arise at the ballot box on election day rather than be able to preempt them.</p> <p>“On the one hand, the problem today seems to be with the scanners, the hardware and software,” Camarda said. “But obviously if reforms had been passed like early voting, that would’ve provided a dry run to prevent these kinds of issues from occurring.”</p> <p>The state has also failed to pass common-sense voting reforms such as no-excuse absentee ballots, mail-in ballots, electronic poll books or consolidating primary election dates. Case in point, New York held two primaries this year, one in June for congressional seats and the second in September for state candidates. In terms of voting, the state also does not allow same-day voter registration and has one of the longest deadlines for switching party registration.</p> <p>The Democrat-led State Assembly has repeatedly passed many of those reforms and Democratic leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have blamed Republicans who control the State Senate for blocking them in turn. Though Cuomo has often said he supports that broad reform platform, he has put little capital behind it and has been promising this year to advance them if the Democrats flip control of the Senate, which they did on Election Day. Senate Democratic leaders have listed voting and election reform as a top priority for early 2019.</p> <p><strong>Overworked, Underpaid and Untrained Poll Workers</strong><br />Though there have been efforts in the Assembly to provide raises to poll workers, who are volunteers, and reduce the long shifts that they are required to serve, most workers continue to be underpaid and overworked. Poll worker training is also seen is inadequate and often causes some of the issues seen on election day, contributing to long lines, confusion, and frustration.</p> <p>The mayor’s funding offer would have required the BOE to provide a plan to improve both&nbsp;poll worker pay and training, including bonuses for those who volunteered at multiple elections in a year. Electronic poll books may also aid efforts to run elections more quickly and smoothly, they are on the list of potential reforms.</p> <p>Many of the less-controversial reforms are long overdue. An <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-audit-board-of-elections-failures-jeopardize-new-yorkers-right-to-vote/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> released by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in November last year found that in three elections since 2016, out of 156 polling sites, 90 percent showed significant breakdowns ranging from mishandling of affidavit ballots and inadequate staffing to a lack of assistance for voters with disabilities. “After a thorough review of the agency, it’s clear the voter purge is a reflection of larger, systemic, day-to-day breakdowns,” Stringer said in a statement at the time. “Elections matter, and every vote must be counted in every election. That’s why the BOE needs to fundamentally change its operations.”</p> <p>Camarda’s group has for years advocated for a municipal poll worker program. “The executive director of the Board of Elections has a very difficult job because you’re managing a temporary workforce of roughly 35,000 people across some 1,300 poll sites,” he said. “If you want to have qualified people to do these jobs, you’ve got to pay them.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/and-cuomo-nov2.jpg" alt="and cuomo nov2" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Election Day in New York City was, as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson <a href="https://twitter.com/CoreyinNYC/status/1059871915727376384" target="_blank" rel="noopener">wrote on Twitter</a>, “like Groundhog Day,” where yet again, voters were forced to wait in long lines as ballot scanners across the city broke down, a sign of the abysmal election administration that New Yorkers have come to expect every time they visit the polls.</p> <p>The past few elections -- city, state, and federal -- conducted in New York City have repeatedly shown instances of failure on the part of the New York City Board of Elections, an entity whose name belies the fact that it is a state-created agency charged with administering several elections each year. City BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan -- who is hired by the board’s ten commissioners and reports to them -- suggested on Tuesday, <a href="https://twitter.com/LindseyChrist/status/1059849434945806343" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in a brief video</a> posted to Twitter by NY1 reporter Lindsey Christ, that the cause of the latest debacle was a combination of higher turnout, an unwieldy two-page ballot (owing to three ballot questions on the back) and wet ballots because of voters coming in from rainy weather.</p> <p>The BOE’s problems, long recognized by government reformers, some elected officials, and of course voters, came urgently to the forefront after the 2016 presidential primary, in which more than 117,000 voters were improperly purged from the rolls in Brooklyn, the city’s most populated borough. The purge, <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-board-elections-admits-it-broke-law-accepts-reforms/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">originally reported by WNYC</a>, led to a federal lawsuit against the BOE, which later opted for a settlement in which it admitted that it broke the law. But while the settlement prompted improvements to voter roll management, the BOE’s inability to smoothly run elections has stretched far beyond that one area or even the last few years.</p> <p>“I think there’s many different problems at many different levels that lead to a day like this,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group.</p> <p>In a statement, Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, who serves on the Rules, Judiciary, Health and Election Law committees, said, “Today’s problems should have been prevented. Rainy weather and high voter turnout should not be impediments to a functional election system.”</p> <p>So why is the New York City Board of Elections so dysfunctional? What is standing in the way of New Yorkers and easy voting experiences?</p> <p><strong>A Structural Problem</strong><br />Part of the reason for the BOE’s continued failures is the agency’s structure itself. Though the agency is funded by the city, and the City Council conducts regular oversight of its function after each election, it is a creation of the state. Its commissioners are chosen by county party committees according to state law -- by the top two vote-getting political parties in the five boroughs, which, for all intents and purposes, means Democrats and Republicans. Each party selects one commissioner from each borough who is then confirmed by the City Council to make up the ten-member board, which decides on everything from election management procedures to candidates’ inclusion on the ballot.</p> <p>The entire process is rife with patronage, with not only the commissioners, but most of the BOE’s staff employees appointed by county chairs along party lines. The board has been resistant to efforts by the city to professionalize its ranks, pushing back against City Council legislation that would require appointments akin to civil service jobs. Broadly speaking, criticism of the board boils down to the belief that it is more concerned about keeping the county party leaders happy than it is about delivering good service to voters, and that it is not necessarily well-prepared to deliver top-notch service even if that was the main focus.</p> <p>Immediately following the 2016 election snafu, Mayor Bill de Blasio even <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/389-16/mayor-de-blasio-make-20-million-available-city-board-elections-vital-reforms" target="_blank" rel="noopener">offered</a> the BOE an additional $20 million to implement reforms including hiring an outside consultant and creating a blue ribbon panel to conduct a top-to-bottom review of systemic issues, providing more transparency in hiring, and new methods of communication with voters. The BOE, however, refused the offer. &nbsp;</p> <p>Speaker Johnson, who called for Ryan’s resignation on Tuesday, said in a phone interview that there is a dire need for reforms at the state level. But, he insisted, “Until that happens, we need competent leadership at the staff level from the Board of Elections.”</p> <p>Johnson said the reasons Ryan gave in the video on Twitter, including the rainy weather and higher turnout, were “predictable” factors. “Those aren’t valid reasons to have hundreds of machines breaking down...That did not give me confidence in him understanding the depth of anger that New Yorkers felt at the polls,” he said. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Voting and electoral laws</strong><br />New York employs what good government groups call “passive voter suppression” with election and voting laws that tend to discourage turnout. The state is one of 13 that does not have early voting, which means that the nearly 13 million registered voters across the state must cast their ballots in a 15-hour period on the day of the general election (During the September primary, poll sites were only open for nine hours in 49 out of 62 counties). Besides depressing turnout, the lack of early voting also forces the BOE to resolve issues as they arise at the ballot box on election day rather than be able to preempt them.</p> <p>“On the one hand, the problem today seems to be with the scanners, the hardware and software,” Camarda said. “But obviously if reforms had been passed like early voting, that would’ve provided a dry run to prevent these kinds of issues from occurring.”</p> <p>The state has also failed to pass common-sense voting reforms such as no-excuse absentee ballots, mail-in ballots, electronic poll books or consolidating primary election dates. Case in point, New York held two primaries this year, one in June for congressional seats and the second in September for state candidates. In terms of voting, the state also does not allow same-day voter registration and has one of the longest deadlines for switching party registration.</p> <p>The Democrat-led State Assembly has repeatedly passed many of those reforms and Democratic leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have blamed Republicans who control the State Senate for blocking them in turn. Though Cuomo has often said he supports that broad reform platform, he has put little capital behind it and has been promising this year to advance them if the Democrats flip control of the Senate, which they did on Election Day. Senate Democratic leaders have listed voting and election reform as a top priority for early 2019.</p> <p><strong>Overworked, Underpaid and Untrained Poll Workers</strong><br />Though there have been efforts in the Assembly to provide raises to poll workers, who are volunteers, and reduce the long shifts that they are required to serve, most workers continue to be underpaid and overworked. Poll worker training is also seen is inadequate and often causes some of the issues seen on election day, contributing to long lines, confusion, and frustration.</p> <p>The mayor’s funding offer would have required the BOE to provide a plan to improve both&nbsp;poll worker pay and training, including bonuses for those who volunteered at multiple elections in a year. Electronic poll books may also aid efforts to run elections more quickly and smoothly, they are on the list of potential reforms.</p> <p>Many of the less-controversial reforms are long overdue. An <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/stringer-audit-board-of-elections-failures-jeopardize-new-yorkers-right-to-vote/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">audit</a> released by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in November last year found that in three elections since 2016, out of 156 polling sites, 90 percent showed significant breakdowns ranging from mishandling of affidavit ballots and inadequate staffing to a lack of assistance for voters with disabilities. “After a thorough review of the agency, it’s clear the voter purge is a reflection of larger, systemic, day-to-day breakdowns,” Stringer said in a statement at the time. “Elections matter, and every vote must be counted in every election. That’s why the BOE needs to fundamentally change its operations.”</p> <p>Camarda’s group has for years advocated for a municipal poll worker program. “The executive director of the Board of Elections has a very difficult job because you’re managing a temporary workforce of roughly 35,000 people across some 1,300 poll sites,” he said. “If you want to have qualified people to do these jobs, you’ve got to pay them.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Nearly 160,000 New Democratic Voters in 7 Months; 22,000 New Republicans 2018-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 2018-11-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8039-nearly-160-000-new-democratic-voters-in-6-months-22-000-new-republicans Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30833380106_11c5de4882_h.jpg" alt="30833380106 11c5de4882 h" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New Yorkers line up to vote (photo: Edwin Torres/Mayor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Close to 160,000 New Yorkers registered with the Democratic Party in the last seven months, according to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/EnrollmentCounty.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">latest enrollment numbers</a> released by the State Board of Elections on Thursday, compared with just over 22,000 voters who joined the Republican Party and close to 113,000 who registered but did not pick a party affiliation. In total, there were 12.7 million registered voters across the state, an increase of about 300,000 since April.</p> <p>The numbers were released, as they typically are on November 1, just a few days before New Yorkers head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots for governor and other statewide positions, as well as members of the state Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives, among other seats. Democrats are hoping to keep control of all the statewide positions on the ballot as well as the state Assembly, while flipping control of the state Senate and enough House seats to contribute to a takeover of that chamber nationally.</p> <p>Democrats have long maintained an overwhelming registration advantage in the state and that has only been growing in recent years, likely in part in response to the Trump presidency and the Republican-led Congress. Prior to going to the polls in November 2016, there were 6.18 million registered Democratic voters statewide. They have grown to 6.36 million, of which 5.78 million are active registered voters and 579,000 inactive voters.</p> <p>Republicans have not fared as well. There were 2.84 million voters registered with the party in November 2016, increasing by only about 6,000 more voters in the latest numbers. Of those, 2.63 million were active voters while 212,000 were inactive. Unaffiliated voters, commonly referred to as “independents,” numbered 2.72 million two years ago and have increased to 2.75 million, with 2.48 million active voters and 270,000 inactive ones.</p> <p>Most of the minor parties did not see drastic change over the last four years. The Independence Party did add about 10,000 new voters to its base, reaching total of just above 491,000, and notably the Green Party added nearly 6,000 new members to its small base, reaching slightly over the 31,000 mark.</p> <p>Voter turnout also surged in primary elections this year -- there was a congressional primary in June and the state primary in September -- with several competitive Democratic races but few Republican ones. New York has more often than not seen low turnout at the polls, a trend that most expect will change this year particularly as Democrats are turning out in increasing numbers amid a nationwide “blue wave,” the electoral impact of which is yet to be seen in full, with November 6 set to show its actual impact.</p> <p>In the four years since the last statewide election, voter enrollment increased by almost 900,000, including nearly 520,000 new Democrats, about 73,000 new Republicans and more than 280,000 new unaffiliated voters.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30833380106_11c5de4882_h.jpg" alt="30833380106 11c5de4882 h" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New Yorkers line up to vote (photo: Edwin Torres/Mayor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Close to 160,000 New Yorkers registered with the Democratic Party in the last seven months, according to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/EnrollmentCounty.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">latest enrollment numbers</a> released by the State Board of Elections on Thursday, compared with just over 22,000 voters who joined the Republican Party and close to 113,000 who registered but did not pick a party affiliation. In total, there were 12.7 million registered voters across the state, an increase of about 300,000 since April.</p> <p>The numbers were released, as they typically are on November 1, just a few days before New Yorkers head to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots for governor and other statewide positions, as well as members of the state Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives, among other seats. Democrats are hoping to keep control of all the statewide positions on the ballot as well as the state Assembly, while flipping control of the state Senate and enough House seats to contribute to a takeover of that chamber nationally.</p> <p>Democrats have long maintained an overwhelming registration advantage in the state and that has only been growing in recent years, likely in part in response to the Trump presidency and the Republican-led Congress. Prior to going to the polls in November 2016, there were 6.18 million registered Democratic voters statewide. They have grown to 6.36 million, of which 5.78 million are active registered voters and 579,000 inactive voters.</p> <p>Republicans have not fared as well. There were 2.84 million voters registered with the party in November 2016, increasing by only about 6,000 more voters in the latest numbers. Of those, 2.63 million were active voters while 212,000 were inactive. Unaffiliated voters, commonly referred to as “independents,” numbered 2.72 million two years ago and have increased to 2.75 million, with 2.48 million active voters and 270,000 inactive ones.</p> <p>Most of the minor parties did not see drastic change over the last four years. The Independence Party did add about 10,000 new voters to its base, reaching total of just above 491,000, and notably the Green Party added nearly 6,000 new members to its small base, reaching slightly over the 31,000 mark.</p> <p>Voter turnout also surged in primary elections this year -- there was a congressional primary in June and the state primary in September -- with several competitive Democratic races but few Republican ones. New York has more often than not seen low turnout at the polls, a trend that most expect will change this year particularly as Democrats are turning out in increasing numbers amid a nationwide “blue wave,” the electoral impact of which is yet to be seen in full, with November 6 set to show its actual impact.</p> <p>In the four years since the last statewide election, voter enrollment increased by almost 900,000, including nearly 520,000 new Democrats, about 73,000 new Republicans and more than 280,000 new unaffiliated voters.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Klein, Filing Late Post-Primary, Shows Over $3 Million in Senate Campaign Spending 2018-10-03T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-03T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7973-klein-filing-late-post-primary-shows-over-3-million-in-senate-campaign-spending Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/shakinghands.jpg" alt="shakinghands" width="600" /></p> <p>Sen. Jeff Klein meets voters (Photo: jeffkleinny.com)</p> <hr /> <p>Already spending at what is likely a record pace, with two weeks until the September 13 primary, New York State Senator Jeff Klein kept spending his campaign cash at a rapid clip to try to beat back a Democratic primary challenge from Alessandra Biaggi, a lawyer and first-time candidate, Klein’s late post-primary campaign finance filing shows. In sum, Klein spent nearly ten times more than Biaggi, but was still unsuccessful as Biaggi claimed the nomination, likely unseating one of the state’s major powerbrokers of the past decade, in the district that covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester.</p> <p>Klein spent nearly $700,000 in September, out of more than $3 million -- an astronomical sum for a state legislative race -- that he depleted in trying to retain his seat in this two-year election cycle. He also raised another $246,000 in those final weeks of the primary -- he has brought in $1.8 million since January 2017 -- including $103,000 from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which he and partners originally set up jointly between the Independence Party and the erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight senators led by Klein that formed a power-sharing agreement with Republicans in the Senate. The SICC was ruled by a state supreme court judge to be illegal, though it apparently moved into compliance thereafter, and the state BOE had ordered that IDC members refund its contributions, but they refused. In total, the SICC directed $403,000 to Klein’s reelection coffers.</p> <p>The SICC also moved hundreds of thousands of dollars, largely from major donors in real estate and education reform, to other members of the IDC, with Klein and five other former IDC members losing their primaries.</p> <p>In the days leading up to September 13, Klein received $90,500 in donations from limited liability companies and from political action committees, including some associated with law enforcement unions and the nursing and beverage industries. Klein has benefited greatly from the largesse of corporations, PACs and LLCs, the last of which are not required to name their owners and can therefore circumvent contribution limits. In total, those types of contributors gave him about $1.16 million for his reelection.</p> <p>There were a few notable individual donations in the most recent filing as well. On primary day itself, Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor with close ties to President Donald Trump, gave Klein $11,000; two days before that, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones gave him $15,000; and in the week before, Larry Robbins, also a billionaire and of the KIPP charter school network, donated $10,000.</p> <p>Of the latest spending spree, about $390,000 went to the Hamilton Campaign Network, a Democratic campaign consulting firm, which organized campaign mailers, phone and text banking efforts, and produced videos for Klein’s campaign.</p> <p>After all his spending, Klein still had $510,000 sitting in his campaign account as of this filing, which was sent to the Board of Elections a week late. He could retain that cash or potentially transfer it to another campaign account, should he decide to run in any upcoming elections, or he can donate to other candidates running in the general. He may decide to use it for his own continued campaign, given that he has the Independence Party ballot line to run on in November after losing the Democratic nomination, and Klein has not formally conceded his race or endorsed Biaggi.</p> <p>In the Democratic primary, Klein received 14,754 votes, about 44.5 percent, losing to Biaggi’s 17,618 votes, or 53.1 percent. All told, Klein spent roughly $207 for each vote while Biaggi only disbursed $18.90 per vote.</p> <p>Independent expenditure groups also showed their support for Klein. Those include Laborers Building a Better New York, a group associated with the Construction and General Building Laborers Local 79 union, which spent $109,360 to favor several candidates, including Klein. New Yorkers for Quality Healthcare, affiliated with the Greater New York Hospital Association, spent a whopping $447,450 on digital ads, direct mailers, web design, and tv production to support Klein and State Senator David Valesky, another former IDC member who lost to his own primary challenger, Rachel May. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s independent expenditure committee also spent $65,338 on direct mailers boosting Klein.</p> <p>In total, Biaggi spent $332,000 on her campaign and raised about $534,000. While Klein was attempting a well-funded last ditch effort to sway voters, Biaggi only dropped about $160,000 in that final three week period, raising only $62,500 in the same time. She has another $133,000 as she heads into the general election, where she would be unopposed unless Klein continues to run.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Klein’s campaign did not return a request for comment for this article. He has not appeared in public since primary day, and did not address supporters on primary night.</p> <p>Biaggi also received outside help in the primary. The Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC spent $97,285 to support her election, through mailers, canvassing efforts and social media ads. They also spent $11,540 on a mailer opposing Klein. The union, 32BJ, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7923-one-of-the-state-s-most-powerful-unions-tries-to-take-down-one-of-its-most-powerful-politicians" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dedicated</a> significant resources, including financial and human, to Biaggi’s successful bid.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/shakinghands.jpg" alt="shakinghands" width="600" /></p> <p>Sen. Jeff Klein meets voters (Photo: jeffkleinny.com)</p> <hr /> <p>Already spending at what is likely a record pace, with two weeks until the September 13 primary, New York State Senator Jeff Klein kept spending his campaign cash at a rapid clip to try to beat back a Democratic primary challenge from Alessandra Biaggi, a lawyer and first-time candidate, Klein’s late post-primary campaign finance filing shows. In sum, Klein spent nearly ten times more than Biaggi, but was still unsuccessful as Biaggi claimed the nomination, likely unseating one of the state’s major powerbrokers of the past decade, in the district that covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester.</p> <p>Klein spent nearly $700,000 in September, out of more than $3 million -- an astronomical sum for a state legislative race -- that he depleted in trying to retain his seat in this two-year election cycle. He also raised another $246,000 in those final weeks of the primary -- he has brought in $1.8 million since January 2017 -- including $103,000 from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee, which he and partners originally set up jointly between the Independence Party and the erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight senators led by Klein that formed a power-sharing agreement with Republicans in the Senate. The SICC was ruled by a state supreme court judge to be illegal, though it apparently moved into compliance thereafter, and the state BOE had ordered that IDC members refund its contributions, but they refused. In total, the SICC directed $403,000 to Klein’s reelection coffers.</p> <p>The SICC also moved hundreds of thousands of dollars, largely from major donors in real estate and education reform, to other members of the IDC, with Klein and five other former IDC members losing their primaries.</p> <p>In the days leading up to September 13, Klein received $90,500 in donations from limited liability companies and from political action committees, including some associated with law enforcement unions and the nursing and beverage industries. Klein has benefited greatly from the largesse of corporations, PACs and LLCs, the last of which are not required to name their owners and can therefore circumvent contribution limits. In total, those types of contributors gave him about $1.16 million for his reelection.</p> <p>There were a few notable individual donations in the most recent filing as well. On primary day itself, Carl Icahn, the billionaire investor with close ties to President Donald Trump, gave Klein $11,000; two days before that, hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones gave him $15,000; and in the week before, Larry Robbins, also a billionaire and of the KIPP charter school network, donated $10,000.</p> <p>Of the latest spending spree, about $390,000 went to the Hamilton Campaign Network, a Democratic campaign consulting firm, which organized campaign mailers, phone and text banking efforts, and produced videos for Klein’s campaign.</p> <p>After all his spending, Klein still had $510,000 sitting in his campaign account as of this filing, which was sent to the Board of Elections a week late. He could retain that cash or potentially transfer it to another campaign account, should he decide to run in any upcoming elections, or he can donate to other candidates running in the general. He may decide to use it for his own continued campaign, given that he has the Independence Party ballot line to run on in November after losing the Democratic nomination, and Klein has not formally conceded his race or endorsed Biaggi.</p> <p>In the Democratic primary, Klein received 14,754 votes, about 44.5 percent, losing to Biaggi’s 17,618 votes, or 53.1 percent. All told, Klein spent roughly $207 for each vote while Biaggi only disbursed $18.90 per vote.</p> <p>Independent expenditure groups also showed their support for Klein. Those include Laborers Building a Better New York, a group associated with the Construction and General Building Laborers Local 79 union, which spent $109,360 to favor several candidates, including Klein. New Yorkers for Quality Healthcare, affiliated with the Greater New York Hospital Association, spent a whopping $447,450 on digital ads, direct mailers, web design, and tv production to support Klein and State Senator David Valesky, another former IDC member who lost to his own primary challenger, Rachel May. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association’s independent expenditure committee also spent $65,338 on direct mailers boosting Klein.</p> <p>In total, Biaggi spent $332,000 on her campaign and raised about $534,000. While Klein was attempting a well-funded last ditch effort to sway voters, Biaggi only dropped about $160,000 in that final three week period, raising only $62,500 in the same time. She has another $133,000 as she heads into the general election, where she would be unopposed unless Klein continues to run.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Klein’s campaign did not return a request for comment for this article. He has not appeared in public since primary day, and did not address supporters on primary night.</p> <p>Biaggi also received outside help in the primary. The Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC spent $97,285 to support her election, through mailers, canvassing efforts and social media ads. They also spent $11,540 on a mailer opposing Klein. The union, 32BJ, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7923-one-of-the-state-s-most-powerful-unions-tries-to-take-down-one-of-its-most-powerful-politicians" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dedicated</a> significant resources, including financial and human, to Biaggi’s successful bid.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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State Board of Elections Curtails Power of Enforcement Counsel 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7852-state-board-of-elections-curtails-power-of-enforcement-counsel Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-and-cuomo-coughlin-votes.jpg" alt="gov and cuomo coughlin votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.</p> <p>The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation” to be divulged to the members. Previously, the board approved Sugarman’s ability to make subpoenas in probes, but she was given latitude to make individual subpoenas within a probe.</p> <p>The new rule also requires that Sugarman provide regular reports to the board members detailing metrics related to her investigations, and for investigations to be limited to six-month timeframes. Sugarman is the first and only person to hold the relatively new position at the board.</p> <p>She has, in the past, criticized the proposed rule changes as being designed to hobble the powers given to her in 2014, after Governor Andrew Cuomo and Legislature passed a law designed to depoliticize the BOE’s enforcement process.</p> <p>"These amendments would allow the politically partisan commissioners of the SBOE to impose their own political will on the independent chief enforcement counsel's investigations," Sugarman said in a June letter to the board, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Sugarman-blasts-rules-that-would-hobble-her-13037942.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">obtained by the Albany Times-Union</a>.</p> <p>The final vote on the measure was 3-1 in favor, with Democratic appointee Andrew Spano dissenting. Before the vote, Sugarman provided sharply critical testimony wherein she accused the board members of attempting to hobble a crucial state watchdog.</p> <p>“By your vote today, you will send a message,” she said, saying that a “yes” vote would stand for partisan intervention into independent oversight, while a “no” vote would stand for “fair and complete investigations.” Sugarman said that the rescission of unmitigated subpoena power, as well as reporting requirements and a six-month timeframe for investigations, would hobble the enforcement counsel’s ability to fairly investigate campaign finance violations.</p> <p>Sugarman claimed that the regulations would slow the pace of investigations by requiring approval of subpoenas by the BOE, and would hinder the independence of the investigation by needing approval from partisan appointees. In effect, the commissioners, not the enforcement counsel, would “control the course and content of an investigation,” she said.</p> <p>Sugarman brought up supporters of her fight against the new regulations: seven state residents who submitted public comment, gubernatorial candidate and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, the Office of the New York Attorney General, good government groups Reinvent Albany and Rochester for All, five members of the former Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, three District Attorneys, and attorney Milton Williams.</p> <p>“Gutting the Enforcement Counsel’s authority and independence will only serve to encourage more corruption in New York,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Our partnership with a strong, independent Enforcement Counsel has allowed us to hold public officials to account for breaking campaign finance laws and cheating New Yorkers. With today’s vote, that work is jeopardized by potential political interference in law enforcement investigations.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, too, opposed the new regulations, expressing his opinion just before the board meeting, though it had been sought for weeks.</p> <p>“‎We reviewed these draft regulations and believe they are unnecessary and ‎could harm the operations and the independence of the enforcement counsel's office,” Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We don't support their adoption and, believe that today's vote should be delayed and members should go back to the drawing board to address these concerns. The Democratic members of the Board of Elections have been informed of our stance."</p> <p>Spokespeople for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>The enforcement counsel was created to independently deliberate election law violations, instead of leaving the job to the partisan board of elections. After Cuomo faced intense controversy for his shuttering of the Moreland Commission, interpreted by many as a reaction to investigations into his administration or people close to him, he and legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos (both now convicted of public corruption) fostered the creation of the enforcement counsel as a compromise.</p> <p>Regardless, the members of the board criticized Sugarman, saying that her office was inadequately enforcing campaign finance law. Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the board, said that enforcement had “effectively stopped” since 2014, the year the enforcement counsel was created, in the areas of deficiencies and non-filings of campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p>Kellner and other board members said that despite thousands of referrals to Sugarman, only a few dozen hearings had been commenced.</p> <p>“It’s beyond me why there has not been public outrage at the fact that this has happened,” Kellner said, singling out good government groups for a lack of criticism. Kellner said that he had spoken to good government groups who were in support of the new rule, but did not say which ones.</p> <p>"I think it's pretty clear that I'm fed up with the current process of the enforcement unit,” Kellner said. “I call upon people in the good government groups...to look at the numbers. Look at the numbers of non-filers, and to how enforcement counsel has handled those non-filers."</p> <p>One of those government reform groups, Reinvent Albany, issued a statement Wednesday expressing opposition to “the sections of the proposed rules which create new&nbsp;procedures for the chief enforcement counsel to issue subpoenas to persons and&nbsp;committees being investigated for violations of Election or other laws.”</p> <p>“We believe these procedures will slow or terminate important investigations of alleged violations of Election Law,” the statement continues. “The Board should not seek to undercut the independence of the chief enforcement counsel, who has investigated types of cases not previously taken on by the Election Law enforcement unit of the Board.”</p> <p>Reinvent Albany supports, however, “the sections related to reporting enforcement activity but believe reporting should be made public and expanded to include all aspects of compliance and</p> <p>enforcement by the State and county boards of election. The Board currently does not report much, if any, compliance and enforcement activity to the general public, and it should do so as is done by other state agencies while respecting the rights of the accused.”</p> <p>Republican co-chair Peter Kosinski said that the six-month timetable was necessary in order for voters to know who they were voting for, and whether they had not committed election law violations; Sugarman had earlier said that the timeframe was “arbitrary.”</p> <p>However, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who submitted testimony against the new rule, said in an <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/19/rockland-da-zugibe-stands-up-ny-independent-counsel-risa-sugarman/800832002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for loHud in July that board members had admitted in 2013 to only undertaking a single probe in the preceding four years. According to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2015.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2015 Board of Elections annual report</a>, Sugarman received board authorization to seek subpoenas in 19 probes in 2015, with nine cases being referred for possible prosecution. The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2017 report</a> noted that Sugarman had received subpoena authorization in four cases and referred one for prosecution.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 annual report</a>, before the enforcement counsel position was created, lists no subpoenas or prosecutions.</p> <p>The board also voted on Wednesday to implement new regulations on political advertising on social media platforms, rules that follow <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7623-cuomo-touts-political-ad-transparency-law-as-other-reforms-languish" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the adoption of a new law passed in this year’s state budget</a>. The new rules will ban foreign entities from purchasing digital ads on social media platforms, and will require ad buyers to register an independent expenditure committee; the board will require that IE’s name be displayed prominently on the ad, as having paid for it.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-and-cuomo-coughlin-votes.jpg" alt="gov and cuomo coughlin votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections voted on Wednesday to hobble the subpoena powers of Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, dealing a significant blow to one of the state’s only election law watchdogs.</p> <p>The new rules, which were voted on by the board at a commissioners’ meeting in Albany, would require Sugarman to obtain permission from the board members (two Democrats, two Republicans) for each subpoena she plans to issue in a probe, and for the “circumstances of the investigation” to be divulged to the members. Previously, the board approved Sugarman’s ability to make subpoenas in probes, but she was given latitude to make individual subpoenas within a probe.</p> <p>The new rule also requires that Sugarman provide regular reports to the board members detailing metrics related to her investigations, and for investigations to be limited to six-month timeframes. Sugarman is the first and only person to hold the relatively new position at the board.</p> <p>She has, in the past, criticized the proposed rule changes as being designed to hobble the powers given to her in 2014, after Governor Andrew Cuomo and Legislature passed a law designed to depoliticize the BOE’s enforcement process.</p> <p>"These amendments would allow the politically partisan commissioners of the SBOE to impose their own political will on the independent chief enforcement counsel's investigations," Sugarman said in a June letter to the board, <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Sugarman-blasts-rules-that-would-hobble-her-13037942.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">obtained by the Albany Times-Union</a>.</p> <p>The final vote on the measure was 3-1 in favor, with Democratic appointee Andrew Spano dissenting. Before the vote, Sugarman provided sharply critical testimony wherein she accused the board members of attempting to hobble a crucial state watchdog.</p> <p>“By your vote today, you will send a message,” she said, saying that a “yes” vote would stand for partisan intervention into independent oversight, while a “no” vote would stand for “fair and complete investigations.” Sugarman said that the rescission of unmitigated subpoena power, as well as reporting requirements and a six-month timeframe for investigations, would hobble the enforcement counsel’s ability to fairly investigate campaign finance violations.</p> <p>Sugarman claimed that the regulations would slow the pace of investigations by requiring approval of subpoenas by the BOE, and would hinder the independence of the investigation by needing approval from partisan appointees. In effect, the commissioners, not the enforcement counsel, would “control the course and content of an investigation,” she said.</p> <p>Sugarman brought up supporters of her fight against the new regulations: seven state residents who submitted public comment, gubernatorial candidate and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, the Office of the New York Attorney General, good government groups Reinvent Albany and Rochester for All, five members of the former Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, three District Attorneys, and attorney Milton Williams.</p> <p>“Gutting the Enforcement Counsel’s authority and independence will only serve to encourage more corruption in New York,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Our partnership with a strong, independent Enforcement Counsel has allowed us to hold public officials to account for breaking campaign finance laws and cheating New Yorkers. With today’s vote, that work is jeopardized by potential political interference in law enforcement investigations.”</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, too, opposed the new regulations, expressing his opinion just before the board meeting, though it had been sought for weeks.</p> <p>“‎We reviewed these draft regulations and believe they are unnecessary and ‎could harm the operations and the independence of the enforcement counsel's office,” Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We don't support their adoption and, believe that today's vote should be delayed and members should go back to the drawing board to address these concerns. The Democratic members of the Board of Elections have been informed of our stance."</p> <p>Spokespeople for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>The enforcement counsel was created to independently deliberate election law violations, instead of leaving the job to the partisan board of elections. After Cuomo faced intense controversy for his shuttering of the Moreland Commission, interpreted by many as a reaction to investigations into his administration or people close to him, he and legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos (both now convicted of public corruption) fostered the creation of the enforcement counsel as a compromise.</p> <p>Regardless, the members of the board criticized Sugarman, saying that her office was inadequately enforcing campaign finance law. Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the board, said that enforcement had “effectively stopped” since 2014, the year the enforcement counsel was created, in the areas of deficiencies and non-filings of campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p>Kellner and other board members said that despite thousands of referrals to Sugarman, only a few dozen hearings had been commenced.</p> <p>“It’s beyond me why there has not been public outrage at the fact that this has happened,” Kellner said, singling out good government groups for a lack of criticism. Kellner said that he had spoken to good government groups who were in support of the new rule, but did not say which ones.</p> <p>"I think it's pretty clear that I'm fed up with the current process of the enforcement unit,” Kellner said. “I call upon people in the good government groups...to look at the numbers. Look at the numbers of non-filers, and to how enforcement counsel has handled those non-filers."</p> <p>One of those government reform groups, Reinvent Albany, issued a statement Wednesday expressing opposition to “the sections of the proposed rules which create new&nbsp;procedures for the chief enforcement counsel to issue subpoenas to persons and&nbsp;committees being investigated for violations of Election or other laws.”</p> <p>“We believe these procedures will slow or terminate important investigations of alleged violations of Election Law,” the statement continues. “The Board should not seek to undercut the independence of the chief enforcement counsel, who has investigated types of cases not previously taken on by the Election Law enforcement unit of the Board.”</p> <p>Reinvent Albany supports, however, “the sections related to reporting enforcement activity but believe reporting should be made public and expanded to include all aspects of compliance and</p> <p>enforcement by the State and county boards of election. The Board currently does not report much, if any, compliance and enforcement activity to the general public, and it should do so as is done by other state agencies while respecting the rights of the accused.”</p> <p>Republican co-chair Peter Kosinski said that the six-month timetable was necessary in order for voters to know who they were voting for, and whether they had not committed election law violations; Sugarman had earlier said that the timeframe was “arbitrary.”</p> <p>However, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, who submitted testimony against the new rule, said in an <a href="https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/07/19/rockland-da-zugibe-stands-up-ny-independent-counsel-risa-sugarman/800832002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">op-ed</a> for loHud in July that board members had admitted in 2013 to only undertaking a single probe in the preceding four years. According to the <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2015.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2015 Board of Elections annual report</a>, Sugarman received board authorization to seek subpoenas in 19 probes in 2015, with nine cases being referred for possible prosecution. The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2017 report</a> noted that Sugarman had received subpoena authorization in four cases and referred one for prosecution.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/AnnualReport2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">2013 annual report</a>, before the enforcement counsel position was created, lists no subpoenas or prosecutions.</p> <p>The board also voted on Wednesday to implement new regulations on political advertising on social media platforms, rules that follow <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7623-cuomo-touts-political-ad-transparency-law-as-other-reforms-languish" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the adoption of a new law passed in this year’s state budget</a>. The new rules will ban foreign entities from purchasing digital ads on social media platforms, and will require ad buyers to register an independent expenditure committee; the board will require that IE’s name be displayed prominently on the ad, as having paid for it.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Experts Confident in New York Election Security, Though Risk of Temporary ‘Chaos’ Remains 2018-07-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7815-experts-confident-in-new-york-election-security-though-risk-of-chaos-remains Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-votes-mount-kisco-primary.jpg" alt="govcuomo votes mount kisco primary" width="600" height="415" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday new measures to enhance the security of the state’s elections. They include “comprehensive risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and managed security services for all county boards of elections,” as well as training for election staff on cyber security.</p> <p>The initiatives make use of $5 million allocated in the 2019 state budget for enhanced cybersecurity related to elections, which included the creation of an “election support center” and an “election cyber security toolkit,” provides “cyber risk vulnerability assessments” for state and local Boards of Elections, and requires BOEs to report data breaches to the state.</p> <p>The announcement comes in the wake of the indictment of 12 Russian nationals for interference in the 2016 presidential election, involving the theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. A news release from the governor’s office said that the state would solicit contracts in the coming days for the risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and security services for county boards of elections.</p> <p>The broader issue of election security has become increasingly prominent in the wake of the 2016 election and the allegations of Russian interference. Cuomo’s announcement of new election security measures came just a few hours after a Tuesday panel at City &amp; State’s Protecting NY Summit, moderated by Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max, where panelists discussed the issue as it relates to state and local elections in New York. New York is in the midst of a busy election year that features races for all of its statewide state-level positions, all of its state legislative seats, one U.S. Senate seat, and all of its House of Representative seats, among others.</p> <p>The panel consisted of State Senators Todd Kaminsky and Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; Eric Hodge, of cybersecurity firm CyberScout Solutions; and Eva Guidarini, a member of Facebook’s U.S. Politics and Government Outreach team.</p> <p>In something of a twist from how New York’s dysfunctional elections are usually discussed, the state’s election security measures in the wake of the 2016 election were highly praised by the panelists. Unlike many states, New York never abandoned paper ballots so as always to leave a “paper trail” in the event of a hack. New York’s voting machines are also not “networked,” but rather are all independent machines. This makes it impossible to hack the entire system or even the machines.</p> <p>“The election results are stored on the device, on two separate -- they look like flash drives, we call them portable memory devices, PMDs -- one is for unofficial results, the other remains with the machine itself for the official results,” said Ryan. “And, in addition to that, there is paper ballots. So if there was ever a really catastrophic event, we still have the paper to make sure that even though the mischief occurred, the outcome and the integrity of the outcome, which is all we could ultimately preserve, is maintained.”</p> <p>Still, in the event of a hack, the city and state may still be underprepared. Ryan suggested that the BOE may be due for an increase in staffing to supplement its monitoring services.</p> <p>Senator Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, ranking member of the Senate finance committee and a member of the elections committee, said that the focus should be not just on whether the 2016 elections were meddled with, but when and how it would happen again, in 2018 and beyond.</p> <p>“Rather than talk about the fact that, apparently, they are hacking our elections, and we have to assume we’ll have future elections hacked, I think the lesson from yesterday, I agree, the timing was perfect for this discussion, was if you don’t have any faith that your elected officials are going to follow the law and uphold their duties and responsibilities, we are in serious trouble as a state, a city, or a country,” Krueger said, in reference to the press conference held by President Donald Trump alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>Twice during the hour-long discussion, Krueger stressed that New York has never adopted electronic-only voting systems, instead opting to leave the paper trail to ensure votes are counted. She explained that she had been part of the fight to ensure paper ballots were still used as many other states were moving to digital-only, which has come back to haunt them.</p> <p>Ryan noted that the 2016 election-related hacking led the BOE to conduct, for the first time, election security exercises and simulations meant to quickly and efficiently identify and neutralize threats.</p> <p>“We did our first tabletop exercises in the lead-up to Election Day,” Ryan said of November 2016. “Tabletop exercises are the way that agencies keep the muscles limber, reenacting real world scenarios in a serious way, and we did a tabletop exercise on the Thursday before a presidential election for almost seven hours. Shows you the seriousness with which everyone took that.”</p> <p>Asked whether New Yorkers should stop expecting immediate and secure election results, Ryan demurred. Kaminsky said he would love to see Long Island election night results come in more quickly, like New York City is able to do.</p> <p>Ryan indicated that if there was a vulnerability to hacking it would be in the uploading of results from polling places to the BOE, and that if a bad actor was intent on causing some "chaos" they would possibly be able to do that for a short period of time, but that systems, while expensive, are in place to mitigate any effects fairly quickly. There may be some temporary confusion, he said, but it would be quickly corrected.</p> <p>“If there is a problem,” Ryan said, “we have backup systems in place. We can leverage police department personnel to shut down the uploading of the results from the poll sites, and shift that to the local police precincts.” Ryan said that BOE sytems are now constantly monitored throughout the year through work with New York City's technology department.</p> <p>Krueger kept to her admittedly skeptical theme by recounting an anecdote of first-year computer science students successfully breaking into voting machines in Ohio within an hour-and-a-half.</p> <p>“When everyone who takes the college computer class can do it in the first hour and a half, you should be very, very worried,” she said.</p> <p>Hodge, whose firm is hired by governments to sure up their cyber security and election systems, said that along with the voting machines and election results, the voter databases and rolls should be protected and secured as well. He also said that policymakers should prioritize being able to detect problems immediately, and that New York carefully vet election vendors to ensure that security is prioritized.</p> <p>"Thankfully," Assemblymember Buchwald said early in the program, "we've had a fairly proactive approach here in New York, not to toot my subcommittee's own horn, or the entire Assembly election committee, but we've actually had already two public hearings on election security, the most recent of which was this past November after the local elections. And if you were at the hearing, if you watched it online, you would have heard the words 'Cambridge Analytica' four months before they became national news."</p> <p>Governor Cuomo’s announcement of new measures comes on the heels of a new law aimed at securing the state’s elections passed earlier this year. The law prohibits foreign entities from forming independent expenditure (IE) committees to buy ads on social media, requires ad buyers on social media to register as IE committees and for the name of the IE that bought the ad to be clearly displayed, and requires the State BOE to make political communications more transparent and accessible.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govcuomo-votes-mount-kisco-primary.jpg" alt="govcuomo votes mount kisco primary" width="600" height="415" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via the Governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday new measures to enhance the security of the state’s elections. They include “comprehensive risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and managed security services for all county boards of elections,” as well as training for election staff on cyber security.</p> <p>The initiatives make use of $5 million allocated in the 2019 state budget for enhanced cybersecurity related to elections, which included the creation of an “election support center” and an “election cyber security toolkit,” provides “cyber risk vulnerability assessments” for state and local Boards of Elections, and requires BOEs to report data breaches to the state.</p> <p>The announcement comes in the wake of the indictment of 12 Russian nationals for interference in the 2016 presidential election, involving the theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. A news release from the governor’s office said that the state would solicit contracts in the coming days for the risk assessments, intrusion detection devices, and security services for county boards of elections.</p> <p>The broader issue of election security has become increasingly prominent in the wake of the 2016 election and the allegations of Russian interference. Cuomo’s announcement of new election security measures came just a few hours after a Tuesday panel at City &amp; State’s Protecting NY Summit, moderated by Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max, where panelists discussed the issue as it relates to state and local elections in New York. New York is in the midst of a busy election year that features races for all of its statewide state-level positions, all of its state legislative seats, one U.S. Senate seat, and all of its House of Representative seats, among others.</p> <p>The panel consisted of State Senators Todd Kaminsky and Liz Krueger; Assemblymember David Buchwald; Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections; Eric Hodge, of cybersecurity firm CyberScout Solutions; and Eva Guidarini, a member of Facebook’s U.S. Politics and Government Outreach team.</p> <p>In something of a twist from how New York’s dysfunctional elections are usually discussed, the state’s election security measures in the wake of the 2016 election were highly praised by the panelists. Unlike many states, New York never abandoned paper ballots so as always to leave a “paper trail” in the event of a hack. New York’s voting machines are also not “networked,” but rather are all independent machines. This makes it impossible to hack the entire system or even the machines.</p> <p>“The election results are stored on the device, on two separate -- they look like flash drives, we call them portable memory devices, PMDs -- one is for unofficial results, the other remains with the machine itself for the official results,” said Ryan. “And, in addition to that, there is paper ballots. So if there was ever a really catastrophic event, we still have the paper to make sure that even though the mischief occurred, the outcome and the integrity of the outcome, which is all we could ultimately preserve, is maintained.”</p> <p>Still, in the event of a hack, the city and state may still be underprepared. Ryan suggested that the BOE may be due for an increase in staffing to supplement its monitoring services.</p> <p>Senator Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, ranking member of the Senate finance committee and a member of the elections committee, said that the focus should be not just on whether the 2016 elections were meddled with, but when and how it would happen again, in 2018 and beyond.</p> <p>“Rather than talk about the fact that, apparently, they are hacking our elections, and we have to assume we’ll have future elections hacked, I think the lesson from yesterday, I agree, the timing was perfect for this discussion, was if you don’t have any faith that your elected officials are going to follow the law and uphold their duties and responsibilities, we are in serious trouble as a state, a city, or a country,” Krueger said, in reference to the press conference held by President Donald Trump alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.</p> <p>Twice during the hour-long discussion, Krueger stressed that New York has never adopted electronic-only voting systems, instead opting to leave the paper trail to ensure votes are counted. She explained that she had been part of the fight to ensure paper ballots were still used as many other states were moving to digital-only, which has come back to haunt them.</p> <p>Ryan noted that the 2016 election-related hacking led the BOE to conduct, for the first time, election security exercises and simulations meant to quickly and efficiently identify and neutralize threats.</p> <p>“We did our first tabletop exercises in the lead-up to Election Day,” Ryan said of November 2016. “Tabletop exercises are the way that agencies keep the muscles limber, reenacting real world scenarios in a serious way, and we did a tabletop exercise on the Thursday before a presidential election for almost seven hours. Shows you the seriousness with which everyone took that.”</p> <p>Asked whether New Yorkers should stop expecting immediate and secure election results, Ryan demurred. Kaminsky said he would love to see Long Island election night results come in more quickly, like New York City is able to do.</p> <p>Ryan indicated that if there was a vulnerability to hacking it would be in the uploading of results from polling places to the BOE, and that if a bad actor was intent on causing some "chaos" they would possibly be able to do that for a short period of time, but that systems, while expensive, are in place to mitigate any effects fairly quickly. There may be some temporary confusion, he said, but it would be quickly corrected.</p> <p>“If there is a problem,” Ryan said, “we have backup systems in place. We can leverage police department personnel to shut down the uploading of the results from the poll sites, and shift that to the local police precincts.” Ryan said that BOE sytems are now constantly monitored throughout the year through work with New York City's technology department.</p> <p>Krueger kept to her admittedly skeptical theme by recounting an anecdote of first-year computer science students successfully breaking into voting machines in Ohio within an hour-and-a-half.</p> <p>“When everyone who takes the college computer class can do it in the first hour and a half, you should be very, very worried,” she said.</p> <p>Hodge, whose firm is hired by governments to sure up their cyber security and election systems, said that along with the voting machines and election results, the voter databases and rolls should be protected and secured as well. He also said that policymakers should prioritize being able to detect problems immediately, and that New York carefully vet election vendors to ensure that security is prioritized.</p> <p>"Thankfully," Assemblymember Buchwald said early in the program, "we've had a fairly proactive approach here in New York, not to toot my subcommittee's own horn, or the entire Assembly election committee, but we've actually had already two public hearings on election security, the most recent of which was this past November after the local elections. And if you were at the hearing, if you watched it online, you would have heard the words 'Cambridge Analytica' four months before they became national news."</p> <p>Governor Cuomo’s announcement of new measures comes on the heels of a new law aimed at securing the state’s elections passed earlier this year. The law prohibits foreign entities from forming independent expenditure (IE) committees to buy ads on social media, requires ad buyers on social media to register as IE committees and for the name of the IE that bought the ad to be clearly displayed, and requires the State BOE to make political communications more transparent and accessible.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
800 Absentee Ballots Not Delivered to Board of Elections for 2017 Vote 2018-05-31T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7704-800-absentee-ballots-not-delivered-to-board-of-elections-for-2017-vote Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30833380106_3027b80b4d_z_1.jpg" alt="voting booths" width="600" height="399" /><br />(photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In April, the New York City Board of Elections received a late delivery of 1,077 pieces of mail from the United States Postal Service, including what turned out to be 828 absentee ballots cast in the 2017 municipal elections. Of those, the BOE found 533 valid absentee ballots never counted, effectively disenfranchising hundreds of voters through no fault of their own, all of whom were attempting to vote in Brooklyn.</p> <p>The postal service’s failure was “egregious,” BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan said at a public meeting of the board’s commissioners on Tuesday. “It’s not something that has been brought to my attention in my almost five years as executive director,” Ryan said. “It seems to be an anomaly and we are thankful that the U.S. Post Office has taken responsibility for their failure to deliver the mail as they were required to do.”</p> <p>According to Ryan, the board received a trove of correspondence in April, including the 828 absentee ballots that had been filled and mailed in by people registered to vote in Brooklyn. Many of the ballots, 295 to be exact, had been postmarked after November 7, the date of the general election, or had illegible or missing postmarks, which meant they would have never been counted. For a ballot to be valid, it had to have been marked before midnight on Election Day and would have to be received by the board no later than seven days after the election.</p> <p>“In any event that leaves us with 533 individuals who timely delivered their ballot to the post office and for whom the post office did not timely deliver the ballot to the Board of Elections,” Ryan said.</p> <p>The BOE, which has faced withering criticism for its own failures in election and ballot management in the past, seems blameless in this particular situation. And though the USPS conceded its guilt in an official letter to the BOE, officials offered no plausible explanation of why the hundreds of ballots were simply set aside at a processing facility in Brooklyn for five months before being discovered and subsequently delivered. “They were all first class pieces of mail. So the Board of Elections was under no obligation whatsoever to pick any of that mail up from the facility. It was and remained the Post Office’s responsibility to deliver the mail to us,” Ryan said.</p> <p>Many of the ballots, he noted, came from university towns such as Rochester and Ithaca, likely meaning they were cast by college students who hailed from the borough. They were also spread out across the borough, meaning they were unlikely to have had a significant effect on any one race. “Not that it made it appreciably better, but if it was something that occurred across the board and didn’t disproportionately impact one district over another, that was certainly better than a circumstance of having them all be concentrated in one area and then potentially cause the outcome of an election to be questioned or reconsidered,” Ryan said.</p> <p>The 2017 general election in the city included races for the three citywide seats, including mayor, as well as the borough president positions and all of the seats on the City Council. Of those, there was only one remotely close general election for voters in Brooklyn, for City Council in the 43rd district, where Democrat Justin Brannan won by 794 votes.</p> <p>Ryan insisted that he received assurances the postal service would avoid repeating its mistake and will correspond directly with the BOE’s central and borough offices.</p> <p>“My conclusion is that the Brooklyn borough staff [of the BOE] did everything that they could possibly do to service the voters in this respect and this happens to be a mistake by the U.S. Post Office,” Ryan said. It was clear that Ryan was sensitive to how blame might be apportioned, particularly since the Brooklyn office was responsible for <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-board-elections-admits-it-broke-law-accepts-reforms/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">illegally purging</a> thousands of voters from the rolls in 2016. He also said that, though it was not required, the BOE would in the future send staff to local post offices to pick up bulk mail deliveries during peak election time.</p> <p>For those whose ballots were not delivered, the BOE will send out individual mailers to inform them that their vote did not count, Ryan said, and their individual voting record will also show scanned copies of their returned envelopes and the post office’s letter of explanation.</p> <p>“Unfortunately under these circumstances there is nothing the Board of Elections could have done any differently,” he said.</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid &amp; Caitlin Bishop</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30833380106_3027b80b4d_z_1.jpg" alt="voting booths" width="600" height="399" /><br />(photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In April, the New York City Board of Elections received a late delivery of 1,077 pieces of mail from the United States Postal Service, including what turned out to be 828 absentee ballots cast in the 2017 municipal elections. Of those, the BOE found 533 valid absentee ballots never counted, effectively disenfranchising hundreds of voters through no fault of their own, all of whom were attempting to vote in Brooklyn.</p> <p>The postal service’s failure was “egregious,” BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan said at a public meeting of the board’s commissioners on Tuesday. “It’s not something that has been brought to my attention in my almost five years as executive director,” Ryan said. “It seems to be an anomaly and we are thankful that the U.S. Post Office has taken responsibility for their failure to deliver the mail as they were required to do.”</p> <p>According to Ryan, the board received a trove of correspondence in April, including the 828 absentee ballots that had been filled and mailed in by people registered to vote in Brooklyn. Many of the ballots, 295 to be exact, had been postmarked after November 7, the date of the general election, or had illegible or missing postmarks, which meant they would have never been counted. For a ballot to be valid, it had to have been marked before midnight on Election Day and would have to be received by the board no later than seven days after the election.</p> <p>“In any event that leaves us with 533 individuals who timely delivered their ballot to the post office and for whom the post office did not timely deliver the ballot to the Board of Elections,” Ryan said.</p> <p>The BOE, which has faced withering criticism for its own failures in election and ballot management in the past, seems blameless in this particular situation. And though the USPS conceded its guilt in an official letter to the BOE, officials offered no plausible explanation of why the hundreds of ballots were simply set aside at a processing facility in Brooklyn for five months before being discovered and subsequently delivered. “They were all first class pieces of mail. So the Board of Elections was under no obligation whatsoever to pick any of that mail up from the facility. It was and remained the Post Office’s responsibility to deliver the mail to us,” Ryan said.</p> <p>Many of the ballots, he noted, came from university towns such as Rochester and Ithaca, likely meaning they were cast by college students who hailed from the borough. They were also spread out across the borough, meaning they were unlikely to have had a significant effect on any one race. “Not that it made it appreciably better, but if it was something that occurred across the board and didn’t disproportionately impact one district over another, that was certainly better than a circumstance of having them all be concentrated in one area and then potentially cause the outcome of an election to be questioned or reconsidered,” Ryan said.</p> <p>The 2017 general election in the city included races for the three citywide seats, including mayor, as well as the borough president positions and all of the seats on the City Council. Of those, there was only one remotely close general election for voters in Brooklyn, for City Council in the 43rd district, where Democrat Justin Brannan won by 794 votes.</p> <p>Ryan insisted that he received assurances the postal service would avoid repeating its mistake and will correspond directly with the BOE’s central and borough offices.</p> <p>“My conclusion is that the Brooklyn borough staff [of the BOE] did everything that they could possibly do to service the voters in this respect and this happens to be a mistake by the U.S. Post Office,” Ryan said. It was clear that Ryan was sensitive to how blame might be apportioned, particularly since the Brooklyn office was responsible for <a href="https://www.wnyc.org/story/city-board-elections-admits-it-broke-law-accepts-reforms/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">illegally purging</a> thousands of voters from the rolls in 2016. He also said that, though it was not required, the BOE would in the future send staff to local post offices to pick up bulk mail deliveries during peak election time.</p> <p>For those whose ballots were not delivered, the BOE will send out individual mailers to inform them that their vote did not count, Ryan said, and their individual voting record will also show scanned copies of their returned envelopes and the post office’s letter of explanation.</p> <p>“Unfortunately under these circumstances there is nothing the Board of Elections could have done any differently,” he said.</p> <p>***<br />by Samar Khurshid &amp; Caitlin Bishop</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Elected Officials, Advocates Push for Instant Runoff Voting 2018-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7650-elected-officials-advocates-push-for-instant-runoff-voting Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/fair-vote-sam.jpg" alt="fair vote sam" width="600" height="451" /></p> <p>Tuesday's press conference (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Several prominent Democratic elected officials and voting reform advocates on Tuesday assembled outside City Hall to call for instant runoff voting in citywide primary elections. Specifically, they said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission, which just began a series of public hearings across the city, should include it among the proposals it puts before voters on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, allows voters to rank primary candidates in order of preference so that if one candidate does not cross the required threshold for victory, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the votes are redistributed based on the second choice selected by voters who had selected the eliminated candidate first, and so on until a winner emerges. The system prevents what can be costly and labor-intensive runoff elections, such as the one held in the 2013 primary election for public advocate.</p> <p>Runoffs are currently only required in the three citywide races, for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, and occur among the top two vote-getters if no candidate hits 40 percent in the first round of the primary.</p> <p>Though prior instant runoff proposals originating in the City Council have failed, the group of electeds and advocates sought to seize on an opportunity presented by the mayor’s creation of the Charter Revision Commission. The commission, which is holding hearings across the five boroughs to solicit public input as to what its agenda should be, can consider any proposal presented to it, though de Blasio charged its members with particularly looking at voting access and campaign finance reform. Its recommendations will take the form of ballot referenda to be offered to voters in this year’s general election.</p> <p>“I am the face of instant runoff, let me remind you,” said Public Advocate Letitia James at Tuesday’s news conference, on the steps of City Hall. The 2013 public advocate runoff -- which James won over then-State Senator Daniel Squadron -- cost an estimated $13 million to taxpayers, surpassing the office’s combined budget for James’ entire first four-year term. James said Tuesday that instant runoffs are the “least expensive and more democratic option” for the city.</p> <p>“It forces you to appeal to all voters as opposed to one Democratic base,” James added. “And this means more engagement, and less polarization and more democracy. It means listening to people you might not usually listen to and a freer exchange of ideas and is consistent with our principle of democracy and free elections,” James added. She later also suggested that if the mayor’s commission failed to take up the proposal, a separate Charter Revision Commission being created by the City Council, through a bill co-sponsored by James, could step in. &nbsp;</p> <p>Also in attendance Tuesday were Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and City Council Members Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, and Ben Kallos, all Democrats. James, Stringer, and Adams are all widely considered to be contenders for the 2021 mayoral race and share overlapping bases of supporters. It’s unclear, though, whether a runoff, instant or otherwise, will come into play in that race and who might benefit from which format. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a fourth likely Democratic mayoral candidate, and several others may also jump into the race, creating a crowded field more apt to produce a runoff.</p> <p>The 2013 Democratic mayoral primary narrowly avoided a runoff, with eventual winner Bill de Blasio earning just above the 40 percent threshold. There was a Democratic runoff in the 2009 primary for public advocate, which de Blasio won. The 2001 Democratic mayoral primary was also settled through a runoff.</p> <p>“Cities that have adopted instant runoff voting to eliminate runoffs have not only saved millions of dollars but have also improved their democracies by making sure that we are electing our leaders in an election where the most voters, the most diverse voters, are at the polls at one time,” said Grace Ramsey, deputy outreach director for FairVote, a nonpartisan advocacy group, at the news conference. Ramsey noted that 15 cities across the country have already implemented instant runoffs. A FairVote analysis of the 2013 public advocate runoff also showed that the Democratic primary runoff electorate was older, whiter, and wealthier than Democrats overall, and only reflected a 7 percent turnout. It occured on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.</p> <p>Critiquing the state’s arcane election laws, Stringer said instant runoffs are a “progressive leap” that would allow elections to be decided quickly and efficiently, and he said the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission affords the city a prime opportunity to pursue the policy. “We don’t have to go to Albany and deal with that political dysfunction in order to get this electoral reform,” he said, an apparent reference to that fact that many other voting and election laws are dictated by the state.</p> <p>In December, Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, testified before the City Council on the 2017 elections and warned them that they had “dodged a bullet” by narrowly avoiding a runoff in the mayoral primary for the Reform Party line. Kellner said at the news conference Tuesday that the state already has the technology and capability to implement instant runoff voting, and reiterated the cost savings associated with implementing the system. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We cannot continue to have an 8-track method in an iPhone age,” said Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. “It is time to ensure that the process encourages people to come out. We live in real time, we live in instant time...Let’s make sure runoff elections are a thing of the past and let’s do it in the right way.”</p> <p>The proposal put forward on Tuesday was not the first attempt at eliminating runoff elections. In 2014, Council Member Lander sponsored a bill to call a referendum on the issue. Mayor de Blasio didn’t support it at the time and has since been lukewarm on the proposal. Asked Tuesday by a reporter if there was any opposition to the proposal, Lander said, “I think it’s just an issue that it’s change and change is not always easy. This is a change to our electoral processes and that’s not something we’re always ready to do.”</p> <p>As the group was gathered at City Hall, a parallel voting reform effort was being advanced in the state capital as well. The state Senate Democrats, led by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, unveiled <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/377827073/05-01-18-Why-Don-t-More-New-Yorkers-Vote-A-Statewide-Snapshot-Identifying-Low-Voter-Turnout" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new report</a> highlighting the shortcomings of the state’s election system that led to an abysmally low voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election. They also released an accompanying package of bills to address voter access and participation. The conference is in the minority, though, and there is limited likelihood that the Republican majority will advance the reforms being sought, such as early voting.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7369-state-board-of-elections-official-says-city-must-move-to-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/fair-vote-sam.jpg" alt="fair vote sam" width="600" height="451" /></p> <p>Tuesday's press conference (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>Several prominent Democratic elected officials and voting reform advocates on Tuesday assembled outside City Hall to call for instant runoff voting in citywide primary elections. Specifically, they said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission, which just began a series of public hearings across the city, should include it among the proposals it puts before voters on the ballot this November.</p> <p>Instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, allows voters to rank primary candidates in order of preference so that if one candidate does not cross the required threshold for victory, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the votes are redistributed based on the second choice selected by voters who had selected the eliminated candidate first, and so on until a winner emerges. The system prevents what can be costly and labor-intensive runoff elections, such as the one held in the 2013 primary election for public advocate.</p> <p>Runoffs are currently only required in the three citywide races, for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, and occur among the top two vote-getters if no candidate hits 40 percent in the first round of the primary.</p> <p>Though prior instant runoff proposals originating in the City Council have failed, the group of electeds and advocates sought to seize on an opportunity presented by the mayor’s creation of the Charter Revision Commission. The commission, which is holding hearings across the five boroughs to solicit public input as to what its agenda should be, can consider any proposal presented to it, though de Blasio charged its members with particularly looking at voting access and campaign finance reform. Its recommendations will take the form of ballot referenda to be offered to voters in this year’s general election.</p> <p>“I am the face of instant runoff, let me remind you,” said Public Advocate Letitia James at Tuesday’s news conference, on the steps of City Hall. The 2013 public advocate runoff -- which James won over then-State Senator Daniel Squadron -- cost an estimated $13 million to taxpayers, surpassing the office’s combined budget for James’ entire first four-year term. James said Tuesday that instant runoffs are the “least expensive and more democratic option” for the city.</p> <p>“It forces you to appeal to all voters as opposed to one Democratic base,” James added. “And this means more engagement, and less polarization and more democracy. It means listening to people you might not usually listen to and a freer exchange of ideas and is consistent with our principle of democracy and free elections,” James added. She later also suggested that if the mayor’s commission failed to take up the proposal, a separate Charter Revision Commission being created by the City Council, through a bill co-sponsored by James, could step in. &nbsp;</p> <p>Also in attendance Tuesday were Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and City Council Members Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, and Ben Kallos, all Democrats. James, Stringer, and Adams are all widely considered to be contenders for the 2021 mayoral race and share overlapping bases of supporters. It’s unclear, though, whether a runoff, instant or otherwise, will come into play in that race and who might benefit from which format. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is a fourth likely Democratic mayoral candidate, and several others may also jump into the race, creating a crowded field more apt to produce a runoff.</p> <p>The 2013 Democratic mayoral primary narrowly avoided a runoff, with eventual winner Bill de Blasio earning just above the 40 percent threshold. There was a Democratic runoff in the 2009 primary for public advocate, which de Blasio won. The 2001 Democratic mayoral primary was also settled through a runoff.</p> <p>“Cities that have adopted instant runoff voting to eliminate runoffs have not only saved millions of dollars but have also improved their democracies by making sure that we are electing our leaders in an election where the most voters, the most diverse voters, are at the polls at one time,” said Grace Ramsey, deputy outreach director for FairVote, a nonpartisan advocacy group, at the news conference. Ramsey noted that 15 cities across the country have already implemented instant runoffs. A FairVote analysis of the 2013 public advocate runoff also showed that the Democratic primary runoff electorate was older, whiter, and wealthier than Democrats overall, and only reflected a 7 percent turnout. It occured on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.</p> <p>Critiquing the state’s arcane election laws, Stringer said instant runoffs are a “progressive leap” that would allow elections to be decided quickly and efficiently, and he said the mayor’s Charter Revision Commission affords the city a prime opportunity to pursue the policy. “We don’t have to go to Albany and deal with that political dysfunction in order to get this electoral reform,” he said, an apparent reference to that fact that many other voting and election laws are dictated by the state.</p> <p>In December, Douglas Kellner, the Democratic co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, testified before the City Council on the 2017 elections and warned them that they had “dodged a bullet” by narrowly avoiding a runoff in the mayoral primary for the Reform Party line. Kellner said at the news conference Tuesday that the state already has the technology and capability to implement instant runoff voting, and reiterated the cost savings associated with implementing the system. &nbsp;</p> <p>“We cannot continue to have an 8-track method in an iPhone age,” said Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. “It is time to ensure that the process encourages people to come out. We live in real time, we live in instant time...Let’s make sure runoff elections are a thing of the past and let’s do it in the right way.”</p> <p>The proposal put forward on Tuesday was not the first attempt at eliminating runoff elections. In 2014, Council Member Lander sponsored a bill to call a referendum on the issue. Mayor de Blasio didn’t support it at the time and has since been lukewarm on the proposal. Asked Tuesday by a reporter if there was any opposition to the proposal, Lander said, “I think it’s just an issue that it’s change and change is not always easy. This is a change to our electoral processes and that’s not something we’re always ready to do.”</p> <p>As the group was gathered at City Hall, a parallel voting reform effort was being advanced in the state capital as well. The state Senate Democrats, led by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, unveiled <a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/377827073/05-01-18-Why-Don-t-More-New-Yorkers-Vote-A-Statewide-Snapshot-Identifying-Low-Voter-Turnout" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a new report</a> highlighting the shortcomings of the state’s election system that led to an abysmally low voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election. They also released an accompanying package of bills to address voter access and participation. The conference is in the minority, though, and there is limited likelihood that the Republican majority will advance the reforms being sought, such as early voting.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7369-state-board-of-elections-official-says-city-must-move-to-instant-runoff-voting" target="_blank" rel="noopener">State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Board of Elections To Roll Out ‘Electronically Assisted’ Voter Registration 2018-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-03-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7550-board-of-elections-to-roll-out-electronically-assisted-voter-registration Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/boe_nyc_website.png" alt="boe nyc website" width="600" height="297" /></p> <p>(NYC BOE website)</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s voting and registration laws have long been derided as onerous and needlessly restrictive, falling far behind most other states that have implemented modern methods to register and cast a vote. While significant changes to state election laws are being debated in Albany ahead of a new state budget, the New York City Board of Elections may improve, albeit incrementally, people’s access to the ballot by soon providing digital aid to register to vote.</p> <p>The Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency funded by the city, is set to roll out a new website in the coming months which will provide New Yorkers with an “electronically assisted way” to fill out a voter registration form and an absentee ballot application, according to BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, who testified at a budget hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Monday. The two electronic forms would still have to be printed and either mailed to the BOE or delivered in person, in accordance with current state law.</p> <p>The City Council last year passed a law mandating that the BOE implement online voter registration and, in mid-2016, mandated that the BOE create an online voter information portal where New Yorkers can track their absentee ballots, check their registration status and voting history, as well as access other voting and election resources. Both bills were sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee last Council session.</p> <p>The BOE has often been reluctant to abide by local laws, since it is governed by the state, and has either implemented common-sense measures that do not necessarily require legislation or has been pushed to do so by litigation. Ryan reiterated that fact Monday, setting aside the “mandate-no mandate argument” and laying out the BOE’s plans for this year. He also explained why the BOE had been slow to implement those measures, when Council Member Kallos sought answers about the delay.</p> <p>“Simply put, 2016 happened,” Ryan said, referring to the 2016 presidential election, during which the BOE faced widespread criticism for mishandling of election operations and settled a federal lawsuit arising from a voter purge in Brooklyn. “We had the issues, painful as it is for me to resurrect, we had the voter registration issues in Brooklyn, followed shortly after that by the cybersecurity issues that arose just prior to the presidential election.”</p> <p>The BOE was poised to launch a new website prior to the 2016 election, Ryan said, but was discouraged by its cybersecurity team, which warned that the new platform would require more “robust testing” before going public. The federal lawsuit also required the BOE to overhaul it’s software for processing election results.</p> <p>Ryan anticipates the launch of the new website in the second quarter of this calendar year, with the voter-registration assistance being mandated by the federal government. He also said the BOE’s voter information portal was “pretty far along” in development.</p> <p>The implementation delay did, however, fortuitously save the Board some effort, Ryan said. In that time, the United States Postal Service launched its own absentee ballot tracking service which they could now implement. “I would envision that since the postal service has already done it, assuming it works, and we’ve been told that it does, that we will help to advertise that so that the folks who really want to track their ballot can do it in a way that the post office can guarantee,” he said.</p> <p>Ryan’s promise of the new website came out of larger testimony about the BOE’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year, during the hearing led by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the governmental operations committee.</p> <p>As with the last few years, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget underfunds the BOE at $95.1 million. Ryan projected the Board would need at least $137.6 million to fund its operations, which include conducting two citywide elections -- the state primary in September and the general election in November (June congressional primaries will fall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30). De Blasio has repeatedly denied employing the “budget dance” practice that agencies had to go through under previous mayors but has continued to use that tactic for the BOE and a few others. In each year under his administration, the BOE receives full funding by the time the budget is adopted.</p> <p>De Blasio has had a contentious relationship with the BOE, and has been very critical of the board’s operations and management, calling for sweeping reforms to its structure and practices. While most reforms can only result from state legislation, de Blasio has had an ongoing offer of $20 million in additional funds for the BOE in exchange for several reforms to its operations. In his State of the City speech in February, de Blasio reiterated that criticism while announcing that he’d convene a Charter Revision Commission that could, among other things, “empower the city government” to handle some responsibilities of the BOE, including voter outreach.</p> <p>At Monday’s hearing, Ryan pressed a number of different needs for the agency, including more funds for cybersecurity and higher pay for poll workers, which must be approved by the state or through executive order of the mayor. He also pressed the need for electronic poll books, which 34 other states and the District of Columbia have already implemented. Without electronic poll books, Ryan said same-day voter registration is “absolutely impossible” and early voting would be “difficult to implement,” at the least. Both reforms have been considered in Albany for years with little success but leading Democrats, including Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, have reiterated their support for the proposals this year.</p> <p>Cuomo, who is currently leading state budget negotiations, put $7 million for early voting in the amendments to his executive budget plan earlier this year.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/boe_nyc_website.png" alt="boe nyc website" width="600" height="297" /></p> <p>(NYC BOE website)</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s voting and registration laws have long been derided as onerous and needlessly restrictive, falling far behind most other states that have implemented modern methods to register and cast a vote. While significant changes to state election laws are being debated in Albany ahead of a new state budget, the New York City Board of Elections may improve, albeit incrementally, people’s access to the ballot by soon providing digital aid to register to vote.</p> <p>The Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency funded by the city, is set to roll out a new website in the coming months which will provide New Yorkers with an “electronically assisted way” to fill out a voter registration form and an absentee ballot application, according to BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, who testified at a budget hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Monday. The two electronic forms would still have to be printed and either mailed to the BOE or delivered in person, in accordance with current state law.</p> <p>The City Council last year passed a law mandating that the BOE implement online voter registration and, in mid-2016, mandated that the BOE create an online voter information portal where New Yorkers can track their absentee ballots, check their registration status and voting history, as well as access other voting and election resources. Both bills were sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee last Council session.</p> <p>The BOE has often been reluctant to abide by local laws, since it is governed by the state, and has either implemented common-sense measures that do not necessarily require legislation or has been pushed to do so by litigation. Ryan reiterated that fact Monday, setting aside the “mandate-no mandate argument” and laying out the BOE’s plans for this year. He also explained why the BOE had been slow to implement those measures, when Council Member Kallos sought answers about the delay.</p> <p>“Simply put, 2016 happened,” Ryan said, referring to the 2016 presidential election, during which the BOE faced widespread criticism for mishandling of election operations and settled a federal lawsuit arising from a voter purge in Brooklyn. “We had the issues, painful as it is for me to resurrect, we had the voter registration issues in Brooklyn, followed shortly after that by the cybersecurity issues that arose just prior to the presidential election.”</p> <p>The BOE was poised to launch a new website prior to the 2016 election, Ryan said, but was discouraged by its cybersecurity team, which warned that the new platform would require more “robust testing” before going public. The federal lawsuit also required the BOE to overhaul it’s software for processing election results.</p> <p>Ryan anticipates the launch of the new website in the second quarter of this calendar year, with the voter-registration assistance being mandated by the federal government. He also said the BOE’s voter information portal was “pretty far along” in development.</p> <p>The implementation delay did, however, fortuitously save the Board some effort, Ryan said. In that time, the United States Postal Service launched its own absentee ballot tracking service which they could now implement. “I would envision that since the postal service has already done it, assuming it works, and we’ve been told that it does, that we will help to advertise that so that the folks who really want to track their ballot can do it in a way that the post office can guarantee,” he said.</p> <p>Ryan’s promise of the new website came out of larger testimony about the BOE’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year, during the hearing led by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, chair of the governmental operations committee.</p> <p>As with the last few years, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget underfunds the BOE at $95.1 million. Ryan projected the Board would need at least $137.6 million to fund its operations, which include conducting two citywide elections -- the state primary in September and the general election in November (June congressional primaries will fall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30). De Blasio has repeatedly denied employing the “budget dance” practice that agencies had to go through under previous mayors but has continued to use that tactic for the BOE and a few others. In each year under his administration, the BOE receives full funding by the time the budget is adopted.</p> <p>De Blasio has had a contentious relationship with the BOE, and has been very critical of the board’s operations and management, calling for sweeping reforms to its structure and practices. While most reforms can only result from state legislation, de Blasio has had an ongoing offer of $20 million in additional funds for the BOE in exchange for several reforms to its operations. In his State of the City speech in February, de Blasio reiterated that criticism while announcing that he’d convene a Charter Revision Commission that could, among other things, “empower the city government” to handle some responsibilities of the BOE, including voter outreach.</p> <p>At Monday’s hearing, Ryan pressed a number of different needs for the agency, including more funds for cybersecurity and higher pay for poll workers, which must be approved by the state or through executive order of the mayor. He also pressed the need for electronic poll books, which 34 other states and the District of Columbia have already implemented. Without electronic poll books, Ryan said same-day voter registration is “absolutely impossible” and early voting would be “difficult to implement,” at the least. Both reforms have been considered in Albany for years with little success but leading Democrats, including Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, have reiterated their support for the proposals this year.</p> <p>Cuomo, who is currently leading state budget negotiations, put $7 million for early voting in the amendments to his executive budget plan earlier this year.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Manhattan Democrats Drop Lawsuit Over Nominee to Board of Elections 2018-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7496-manhattan-democrats-drop-lawsuit-over-nominee-to-board-of-elections Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson_mmv_will_alatriste.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mark-Viverito City Council" width="600" height="434" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson and former Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The Manhattan Democratic County Committee is dropping a lawsuit against the New York City Council over a nomination for a commissioner to the Board of Elections.</p> <p>In December, the Manhattan Democratic Party, led by Chair Keith Wright, filed a legal challenge against then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s attempt to confirm her preferred candidate to a Manhattan BOE commissioner seat over the county party’s choice. A lawyer for the Manhattan Democrats told Gotham Gazette on Friday that Wright and new Council Speaker Corey Johnson had come to an agreement and that Wright had instructed the lawyer to drop the suit.</p> <p>The BOE has ten commissioners, one Democrat and one Republic from each of the five boroughs, who serve two-year terms and are selected through the political party machinery. Current Manhattan Democratic commissioner Alan Schulkin’s term ended in December 2016 but he has continued to serve on the board since the City Council has yet to choose his replacement.</p> <p>In late 2016, the Manhattan Democrats nominated Jeanine Johnson, an aide to Wright, to fill Schulkin's seat. But the Council did not act on the nomination, after which state law allowed the Council's Democratic conference to choose their own nominee. In November 2017, the Manhattan Democrats chose another nominee, lawyer Sylvia DiPietro. But Mark-Viverito chose instead to advance her own candidate, environmental lawyer Andrew Praschak, over the wishes of the county, leading to the lawsuit. Mark-Viverito and Wright are known to not get along, and the Manhattan Democratic Party is known as particularly lacking in cohesion compared to other boroughs.</p> <p>The City Council has traditionally toed the county line on nominations to the BOE and the entire body usually votes along with the county's choice. Praschak's nomination was far more complicated. Council Members from Manhattan at first refused to vote on Praschak, insisting on interviewing him and other candidates. After interviews with both DiPietro and Praschak, the latter emerged as the preferred nominee. But a second attempt to vote on Praschak’s nomination also failed when most Democratic Council Members from other boroughs did not show up, meaning the conference could not get a necessary quorum. To some, this indicated that other county leaders were pulling weight to help Wright.</p> <p>The Manhattan Democrats’ lawsuit was filed December 4, soon after the failed vote attempts to install Praschak. On December 19, the Manhattan Democrats won a preliminary <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/judge-slams-mark-viverito-appoint-ally-boe-job-article-1.3709331" target="_blank" rel="noopener">injunction</a> in their suit against the Council, which was lifted after the Council appealed. But the lawsuit was successful in forestalling a vote till the Council’s term ended and Mark-Viverito’s tenure with it. A resolution fell to the new class of the Council under new Speaker Corey Johnson, who, unlike Mark-Viverito, ascended to the speakership with support of the major county party leaders in the Bronx and Queens.</p> <p>Arthur Schwartz, the lawyer for the Manhattan Democrats in the lawsuit, told Gotham Gazette that Chair Wright and Speaker Johnson had decided to move forward without a lawsuit hanging over the process. “[Keith Wright] said they’re sorting it out but he wanted me to discontinue the lawsuit,” Schwartz said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>Schwartz said he would be sending a “stipulation of discontinuance” later that afternoon to the Corporation Counsel’s office, which is representing the City Council in the lawsuit.</p> <p>Reached by phone, Wright said, “I’m not ready to comment on anything at this time.”</p> <p>Robin Levine, a spokesperson for Speaker Johnson, said in an email that she “can't comment on pending litigation.” Mark-Viverito did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>It’s unclear if the nomination of DiPietro will go forward as Wright and Johnson continue to negotiate. “That’s up to them,” Schwartz said. “It’s something Keith’s gotta work out with the Speaker.”</p> <p>“It’s a friendly relationship,” he said of the two, contrasting it with Mark-Viverito’s dynamic with Wright. “I wouldn’t say that was friendly at all.”</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, who supported Praschak’s nomination after hearing DiPietro voice “misplaced” concerns about voter fraud, said he is hoping to see a reformer on the board. The current commissioner, Schulkin, has also faced criticism in the past for expressing similar unfounded sentiments about voter fraud in the city and the need for voter identification.</p> <p>Kallos, former chair and current member of the Council’s governmental operations committee, which has some oversight of the Board of Elections, is concerned with election administration in the city, which falls under the 10 BOE commissioners as well as the executive director, Michael Ryan, and staff. The notoriously dysfunctional BOE is governed by state law, and there have been perpetual calls for modernization and professionalization of the board, including removing party politics from the commissioner appointment process. Johnson is opposed to such a reform, but has said he wants to see election administration improved.</p> <p>“I look forward to working with the new Manhattan delegation chairs and the speaker on getting somebody committed to reform on the BOE,” Kallos said in a phone interview. “Whether its Sylvia DiPietro or another nominee, I hope they’re more concerned with not having lines on Election Day and with a smooth voting process rather than non-existent voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/johnson_mmv_will_alatriste.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson Mark-Viverito City Council" width="600" height="434" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson and former Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The Manhattan Democratic County Committee is dropping a lawsuit against the New York City Council over a nomination for a commissioner to the Board of Elections.</p> <p>In December, the Manhattan Democratic Party, led by Chair Keith Wright, filed a legal challenge against then-Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s attempt to confirm her preferred candidate to a Manhattan BOE commissioner seat over the county party’s choice. A lawyer for the Manhattan Democrats told Gotham Gazette on Friday that Wright and new Council Speaker Corey Johnson had come to an agreement and that Wright had instructed the lawyer to drop the suit.</p> <p>The BOE has ten commissioners, one Democrat and one Republic from each of the five boroughs, who serve two-year terms and are selected through the political party machinery. Current Manhattan Democratic commissioner Alan Schulkin’s term ended in December 2016 but he has continued to serve on the board since the City Council has yet to choose his replacement.</p> <p>In late 2016, the Manhattan Democrats nominated Jeanine Johnson, an aide to Wright, to fill Schulkin's seat. But the Council did not act on the nomination, after which state law allowed the Council's Democratic conference to choose their own nominee. In November 2017, the Manhattan Democrats chose another nominee, lawyer Sylvia DiPietro. But Mark-Viverito chose instead to advance her own candidate, environmental lawyer Andrew Praschak, over the wishes of the county, leading to the lawsuit. Mark-Viverito and Wright are known to not get along, and the Manhattan Democratic Party is known as particularly lacking in cohesion compared to other boroughs.</p> <p>The City Council has traditionally toed the county line on nominations to the BOE and the entire body usually votes along with the county's choice. Praschak's nomination was far more complicated. Council Members from Manhattan at first refused to vote on Praschak, insisting on interviewing him and other candidates. After interviews with both DiPietro and Praschak, the latter emerged as the preferred nominee. But a second attempt to vote on Praschak’s nomination also failed when most Democratic Council Members from other boroughs did not show up, meaning the conference could not get a necessary quorum. To some, this indicated that other county leaders were pulling weight to help Wright.</p> <p>The Manhattan Democrats’ lawsuit was filed December 4, soon after the failed vote attempts to install Praschak. On December 19, the Manhattan Democrats won a preliminary <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/judge-slams-mark-viverito-appoint-ally-boe-job-article-1.3709331" target="_blank" rel="noopener">injunction</a> in their suit against the Council, which was lifted after the Council appealed. But the lawsuit was successful in forestalling a vote till the Council’s term ended and Mark-Viverito’s tenure with it. A resolution fell to the new class of the Council under new Speaker Corey Johnson, who, unlike Mark-Viverito, ascended to the speakership with support of the major county party leaders in the Bronx and Queens.</p> <p>Arthur Schwartz, the lawyer for the Manhattan Democrats in the lawsuit, told Gotham Gazette that Chair Wright and Speaker Johnson had decided to move forward without a lawsuit hanging over the process. “[Keith Wright] said they’re sorting it out but he wanted me to discontinue the lawsuit,” Schwartz said in a phone interview on Friday afternoon.</p> <p>Schwartz said he would be sending a “stipulation of discontinuance” later that afternoon to the Corporation Counsel’s office, which is representing the City Council in the lawsuit.</p> <p>Reached by phone, Wright said, “I’m not ready to comment on anything at this time.”</p> <p>Robin Levine, a spokesperson for Speaker Johnson, said in an email that she “can't comment on pending litigation.” Mark-Viverito did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>It’s unclear if the nomination of DiPietro will go forward as Wright and Johnson continue to negotiate. “That’s up to them,” Schwartz said. “It’s something Keith’s gotta work out with the Speaker.”</p> <p>“It’s a friendly relationship,” he said of the two, contrasting it with Mark-Viverito’s dynamic with Wright. “I wouldn’t say that was friendly at all.”</p> <p>Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, who supported Praschak’s nomination after hearing DiPietro voice “misplaced” concerns about voter fraud, said he is hoping to see a reformer on the board. The current commissioner, Schulkin, has also faced criticism in the past for expressing similar unfounded sentiments about voter fraud in the city and the need for voter identification.</p> <p>Kallos, former chair and current member of the Council’s governmental operations committee, which has some oversight of the Board of Elections, is concerned with election administration in the city, which falls under the 10 BOE commissioners as well as the executive director, Michael Ryan, and staff. The notoriously dysfunctional BOE is governed by state law, and there have been perpetual calls for modernization and professionalization of the board, including removing party politics from the commissioner appointment process. Johnson is opposed to such a reform, but has said he wants to see election administration improved.</p> <p>“I look forward to working with the new Manhattan delegation chairs and the speaker on getting somebody committed to reform on the BOE,” Kallos said in a phone interview. “Whether its Sylvia DiPietro or another nominee, I hope they’re more concerned with not having lines on Election Day and with a smooth voting process rather than non-existent voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>