Today's New York presidential primary has been marred by reports of polling sites opening hours late, others lacking functional ballot scanners, and tens of thousands of voters finding that they'd been purged from voter rolls. Yesterday, dozens of New York voters sued the state over changes to their voter registrations that would keep them from voting in the closed primaries, and today, Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that he's going to conduct an audit of the city's Board of Elections in the wake of today's widespread problems.

"There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls, told to vote at the wrong location or unable to get in to their polling site," Stringer said. "The people of New York City have lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic, and inefficient."

In a letter sent earlier this afternoon to Michael Ryan, executive director of the city's BOE, Stringer cited reports of faulty ballot scanners, poorly-staffed voting sites, and questionable purged voter registrations. As we've reported in our live updates on the primary, these problems have been manifold. A polling site in Harlem was missing the registered voter book for the second half of the alphabet, and didn't have one delivered until 9:45 a.m., nearly four hours after the polls opened. In downtown Brooklyn, voters arrived at the polls at 6 a.m. only to find the doors were locked, and wouldn't be opened for hours. And numerous voters who said they were registered Democrats were told they were not listed in the voter books.

In a statement, Mayor de Blasio said that "it has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists. I am calling on the Board of Election to reverse that purge and update the lists again using Central, not Brooklyn borough, Board of Election staff. We support the Comptroller's audit and urge its completion well in advance of the June elections so corrective action can be taken. These errors today indicate that additional major reforms will be needed to the Board of Election and in the state law governing it. We will hold the BOE commissioners responsible for ensuring that the Board and its borough officers properly conduct the election process to assure that voters are not disenfranchised. The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed"

The BOE says today's problems were relatively isolated incidents, and reminded voters who weren't able to vote during the polls' early hours that they would remain open until 9 p.m.

"I bristle at the suggestion that some folks might be making that there are widespread problems," Ryan told the Observer. "We’re just not seeing it." Ryan further categorized today's issues as "what we typically see during elections."

This is hardly the first time the city has seen a spate of problems on an election day. During the 2012 presidential election, voters encountered hours-long wait times, jammed ballot scanners, and poorly-trained poll workers, prompting elected officials to demand a "complete overhaul" of the BOE. If today's events are any indication, no such substantive overhaul has occurred.

The Comptroller's office did not conduct a similar audit in 2012—according to their records, the most recent BOE audit was in 2011, and was looking at the board's procurement practices, not its management and operations. But earlier this month, Stringer released a report arguing that New York discourages people from voting, despite already-low voter turnout. The report made a number of recommendations for reforming elections and increasing voter participation, including offering same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration through the DMV, and improving training for poll workers.

In his letter to Ryan, Stringer demanded to know how the BOE will avoid late poll site openings and broken scanners in upcoming elections; how the board is planning on communicating with voters about upcoming primary and general elections to avoid further confusion; what sort of training is provided to poll workers, and how that training will be improved in the future; and why over 120,000 voters were removed from the rolls in Brooklyn. You can read the full text of the letter here:

Primary Day Letter 041916