Senator Zellnor Myrie, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, released a comprehensive report on New York State’s voting system this Monday, Nov 15. The report is a major temperature read of the state’s “marred and undermined” elections that feature flawed oversight and often disproportionately affect low-income voters and people of color.
In the months following the highly scrutinized tabulation error made by the New York City Board of Elections in June’s primaries, Myrie travelled the state holding a series of public forums. Voters, poll workers, advocates and elections administrators testified about the deep, structural problems with New York’s elections, said Myrie.
“These problems are not new, but in an era where the legitimacy of elections has come under attack across the country, it’s more important than ever that we solve them,” said Myrie in a statement.
The state has been gradually reducing the barriers to vote and register to vote for the last 50 years, and in 2019 passed several laws to simplify the voting process and encourage more turnout and participation. Unfortunately, the introduction of new voting laws, like early voting and ranked choice voting, coincided with 2020’s global COVID-19 pandemic and a massive presidential election.
These stressors exposed cracks in the city’s, state’s, and by extension, the country’s voting system.
Based on testimonies, the report found that New York’s election administrators are “overwhelmingly well-intentioned, committed, and hard-working, but the system in which they work lacks the oversight, transparency, and accountability mechanisms necessary to serve its vital purposes.” These structural flaws tend to fall on disenfranchised communities the most, such as people of color, low-income voters, voters with physical disabilities, or voters whose primary language is not English.
It’s also problematic that the state and local election boards are somewhat independent of one another. The state doesn’t supervise what happens in local counties or run investigations, found the report.
The report outlined recommended reforms, including restructuring the state and city BOE, changing the selection process for commissioners, and raising poll worker standards.
For generations, politicians and pundits have been duking it out for control over New York City’s elections and voting rights.
In fact, up until 1872, elections in the city were conducted by a bureau within the police department under sole Democratic control, the report stated. The state then passed a law requiring the NYPD to appoint Democratic and Republican election inspectors in each election district under the guise of checks and balances. But, in reality “the Republican legislature imposed the bipartisan system on a Democratic city to create jobs for Republicans at local taxpayer expense.”
“The Senate Majority is committed to expanding New Yorkers’ access to the ballot while safeguarding the integrity of our elections. To that effect after every election we have sought to identify issues in the administration of our elections system and pass legislation to deal with these issues,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w