Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

 

Board of Elections

Board of Elections

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    (photo: Gotham Gazette)


    After about 60,000 New York City voters took advantage of the first early voting period in city history, albeit during an especially quiet electoral year, more than 650,000 others went to the polls on Election Day 2019, providing mostly expected results and approving multiple controversial ballot proposals to change city elections and governance. This year provided a helpful initial test run for early voting and all that goes with it, such as electronic poll books and a lot of poll-worker training, before what is expected

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    (photo: @Charter2019NYC)


    Just seven people trickled in from the rain to attend the information session in the Lower Gallery of the Bronx Museum of the Arts last Wednesday night. Despite the low turnout, the small group has the potential to reach dozens or even hundreds more people because most of those who attended represented organizations. They had come to the museum that night to gather information to bring back to their members about the proposals that will be on this year’s ballot, whereby voters will approve or disapprove 19 changes to New York City governance and

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  • voting gen election may office

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Major changes are coming to the way New Yorkers cast ballots as the New York City Board of Elections prepares to roll out early voting for the first time later this month. In a sort of test-run during a very quiet election year, the Board will be opening up the polls for nine days leading up to Election Day and is taking the opportunity to pilot new technology that can make voting easier and more accessible.

    Throughout 2019 New York City elections administrators have had the immense

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  • poll pad e poll book

    (photo: knowink)


    With just one month before New York rolls out early voting for the first time, it is unclear exactly where the city’s Board of Elections stands on acquiring and readying new technology considered essential to the new voting system.

    BOE commissioners and staff have been discussing the acquisition of electronic poll books at board meetings since January, when the State Legislature passed and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law establishing early voting and authorizing counties to purchase the new tech, which enables implementation of early

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    (photo: Edward Reed/Mayor's office)


    While city officials and elections administrators clash over what changes the Board of Elections should make to improve operations and the voting experience, one widely-supported option the city could pursue sits on the back-burner.

    A municipal poll workers program would allow the Board of Elections to hire Election Day poll workers from a pool of city employees, significantly reducing the hiring and training burdens for administrators and helping to ensure poll sites are more effectively

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    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one: New York's Election Administration Accountability Vacuum: ‘Bad Choices at Every Step'

    New York City’s Board of Elections, the maligned ten-member commission responsible for overseeing the administration of voting in the five boroughs, has been the subject of criticism for decades owing to inefficiency and

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    NYC BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    After each election cycle, New York elected officials, government insiders, and interested members of the press and public gather at City Hall and in other hearing rooms for a bit of political theater. The protagonist is the electorate, or the democratic process, itself; the one cast as villain is Michael Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, who is there to respond to questions about how voting went that year.

    “Mr. Ryan,

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    (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayoral Photography Office)


    In January, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a governmental watchdog agency, revealed that it had held a closed-door vote on a potential ethics investigation into a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The aide, Joe Percoco, was convicted on federal corruption charges in a highly publicized trial that also laid bare work he had done from his executive chamber office while on leave to work

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    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Early voting has finally come to our state, but it won’t work in our city unless the City Board of Elections ensures there are enough voting sites. That needs to happen, and it needs to happen now for our 3 million immigrants, our communities of color and every New Yorker who has a hard time voting on Election Day.

    Later today, the BOE is due to announce how many early voting poll sites New York City will have for the November election – the first time New Yorkers will have the right to vote

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  • voting gen elect

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The New York City Board of Elections, a state entity funded by the city, has a less-than-stellar reputation for running elections and has long been resistant to going beyond the letter of state law in improving voter access and participation. And this year, the city BOE must contend with a new state mandate to create an early voting program for potentially millions of voters, as well as a push by the city to provide broader poll site interpretation services in immigrant communities.

    At a Tuesday

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    (photo: Gotham Gazette)


    In the coming days, the Board of Elections will select a vendor to provide voting machines to serve nearly 5 million New York City voters as part of the early voting launch this year. Unfortunately, the entire process has become tainted by corruption and ought to raise deep concerns to anyone who cares about the integrity of our elections.

    Over the past decade, New York City has paid $43 million to Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) for its poor quality ballot scanners and other voting machines. This is the same company

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    Speaker Johnson (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


    The New York City Council’s Democratic conference held on Thursday what officials said was its first ever public vote to appoint three new commissioners to the New York City Board of Elections.

    The BOE is a quasi-city agency, funded in the city budget but governed by state law. It has ten commissioners -- two from every borough, with one each recommended by the Democratic and Republican parties and appointed by the City Council for four-year terms. The board’s executive director is chosen by the

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    BOE ED Michael Ryan (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    Embattled City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan testified before the City Council's Committees on Oversight and Government Operations on Tuesday, explaining that a perforated two-page ballot, never before used anywhere in the United States, was primarily to blame for the issues at polling sites across the city on Election Day.

    In a combative hearing initially presided over by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Ryan apologized, after being asked to do so, for the

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  • voting booths

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    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.

    Though with looming new political

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    Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    Election Day in New York City was, as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson wrote on Twitter, “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.

    The past few elections -- city, state, and federal --

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    New Yorkers line up to vote (photo: Edwin Torres/Mayor's office)


    Close to 160,000 New Yorkers registered with the Democratic Party in the last seven months, according to the latest enrollment numbers 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,

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    Sen. Jeff Klein meets voters (Photo: jeffkleinny.com)


    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

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    (Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    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.

    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”

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    Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via the Governor's office)


    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.

    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

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  • voting booths
    (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    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.

    The postal service’s failure was “egregious,” BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan said at a public

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    Tuesday's press conference (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)


    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.

    Instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, allows voters to rank primary

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    (NYC BOE website)


    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.

    The Board of Elections, a quasi-state agency funded by the city, is set to roll

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  • Corey Johnson Mark-Viverito City Council

    Speaker Johnson and former Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    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.

    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

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  • Kallos Salamanca City Council

    Council Members Ben Kallos, left, and Rafael Salamanca (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    When new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson reshuffled committee portfolios earlier this month, Council Member Ben Kallos lost his position as chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. Sources say the move was punishment for Kallos’ approach to Board of Elections commissioner nominations and because of his support for one of Johnson’s opponents in the speaker race.

    By virtually all accounts, Kallos had done an exceptional job chairing

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  • poll site samar photo

    photo by Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette


    With a 16-hour workday, compensation at $200, and the monotony of sitting in what is often a stifling, public-school gymnasium, New York City’s tens of thousands of election poll workers have a largely thankless job.

    Mobilized only a few days most years, they are often retired or semi-retired. While unheralded, they are the frontline for the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), which, as governed by state law, is responsible for registering voters, maintaining voter records, and operating poll site locations

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