Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for "major reforms" at the city Board of Elections in response to widespread irregularities in voter registrations and problems at polling places citywide yesterday. In a statement, de Blasio focused particularly on the agency's Brooklyn office, where between November and this month, 126,000 Democratic voters were removed from active status, the most of any county in the state.
De Blasio said that he has been informed that "the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists."
In the short term, the mayor said that the BOE's central office should review the Brooklyn lists and restore improperly purged voters ahead of the June 28th congressional primary. Going forward, he said, "These errors today indicate that additional major reforms will be needed to the Board of Election and in the state law governing it."
He added, "The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed."
The city BOE is a notoriously dysfunctional patronage mill run by commissioners appointed by Republican and Democratic party bosses, a fact that periodic alarming news stories has done little to change. The state Board of Elections does little to alleviate the impact of under-qualified party allies on the integrity of the voter rolls, as the state agency exerts no control over how each of New York's 62 counties store data.
Reports of voters finding themselves mysteriously absent from voter lists at polling places, or no longer a member of the one party they've voted in for years, have prompted Comptroller Scott Stringer to pledge an audit of the city BOE.
"Unfortunately in New York City, this is nothing new," Stringer told reporters yesterday afternoon. "The next president of the United States could very easily be decided tonight. And yet the incompetence of the Board of Elections puts a cloud over these results. It’s time we clean up this mess."
By 4 p.m., Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office had received more than four times the number of complaints it got through its voter hotline during the 2012 general election. The most common complaints were from voters who went to the polls and were told they weren't registered. Next up were those who found that they were not listed with the party with which they wanted to cast a primary vote.
City Hall did not respond to a request for further information on what "major reforms" to the BOE would entail.