The Board of Elections sent 17,000 voters registration updates that contained incorrect congressional and state senate districts — three weeks before primary races in those districts — a Board of Elections official confirmed.
Vincent Ignizio, the deputy executive director of the board, told Gothamist the confusion occurred because of two different versions of congressional and senate maps the board received at different times during the chaotic redistricting process earlier this year. Roughly 17,000 voters who updated their registrations — out of 2.3 million eligible primary voters — got notices that pulled data from the wrong map, he said.
“This was an error and it’s unfortunate and it was corrected,” he said, adding all the affected voters would get amended notices ahead of the August 23rd Primary. “This was an unfortunate byproduct of multiple elections and redistricting processes on the same systems and staff simultaneously.”
Ignizio urged all voters to check their registration online, which should list the correct electoral districts, as well as their polling sites, ahead of the primary. Last month, The City reported, polling sites had changed for more than 86,000 voters since the June primary, which could lead to further confusion come August 23rd.
Gothamist asked Ignizio about the erroneous mailers after several voters raised concerns. SoHo resident Evan Roth Smith, a political consultant with the group Slingshot Strategies, got a notice saying he was in the 12th Congressional District, though he lived in the 10th. He was switched into the 27th State Senate District during redistricting, but the notice sent to him by the BOE said he lived in the 29th — one whose boundaries encompass the East Harlem and the South Bronx, miles away from his SoHo apartment.
“I happen to work in politics. I know where the lines are,” he said. “Something went wrong.”
When he checked his voter registration online, the districts were correct, but Smith said he feared the confusion would cause additional hurdles in what’s already expected to be a low-turnout election.
“The BOE is once again demonstrating an incredible ability to get it entirely wrong at the worst possible moment,” he said.
This reporter also received an erroneous update from the Board of Elections telling her she was registered in the 7th Congressional District though she lives in the 10th, and the 29th Senate District, though she lives in the 35th.
Snafus from the city’s Board of Elections are a perennial occurrence, almost as predictable as elections themselves. In 2016, the board inappropriately purged 120,000 voters from their books. In the midterms of 2018, lack of preparedness for two-page ballots jammed scanners throughout the city and triggered hours-long delays at polling sites. During last year’s first ranked-choice mayoral primary, the board first released incorrectly tallied vote counts, throwing the race into chaos.
And just about two months ago, during the June primary for governor, state Assembly and other local races, the board directed more than 4,000 voters to a Madison Square Garden poll site that had been moved to various different locations at the last minute.
Still, the BOE’s efforts were not aided by a redistricting process that state Democrats plunged into chaos when a court found they illegally gerrymandered election districts to their benefit. The ensuing legal battles led to an outside expert redrawing district lines and bifurcating the primaries — creating confusion and potentially driving down turnout in a crucial midterm election.
“There is no job there in the world where every time you get up to bat you’re perfect,” Ignizio said, when asked how voters should maintain confidence in the board, which is often criticized as a bastion of party patronage and nepotism. “There’s always going to be some things that need corrective measures. This was one of them.”