Dismantle the BOE! New Yorkers Deserve a Functional Democracy

New York, NY-Five weeks ahead of Election Day, there are widespread reports of absentee ballots sent to New York City voters with incorrect names and addresses. Thus far, the ballot errors appear to be concentrated in Brooklyn, a borough of 2.6 million people whose borough elections board has a track record of mismanaging elections. In response, City Board of Elections officials are encouraging voters to call a hotline (1-866-VOTE-NYC) to receive a new ballot. But the phone lines appear to be jammed.

The error comes on the heels of a June primary election riddled with delays and hardships for voters. Voters whose first language is not English were especially disenfranchised because of BOE’s archaic rules, the confusing directions for completing an absentee ballot, and BOE’s refusal to provide interpreters at all poll sites where they are required. Overwhelmed by an avalanche of mail-in ballots and a failure to plan ahead, election officials spent more than a month counting ballots in some closely watched congressional races.

In response to the ballot errors, Paul Westrick, Manager of Democracy Policy, issued the following statement.

“While COVID-19 is creating hardships for the NYC Board of Elections, the pandemic alone cannot bear the brunt of the blame. Poorly run elections have become the norm in New York City. This is not how elections are run in other states; this is not how elections are run in other counties of this state. By allowing this to continue, the BOE is undermining our city's democratic process.

State election law empowers the Governor to remove election commissioners for cause. Their decades of incompetence, voter disenfranchisement, and corruption certainly qualify. We call on Governor Cuomo to remove all ten NYC BOE commissioners. This will allow the NYC Council to replace all ten commissioners with actual subject matter experts in voting rights, civic engagement, and public administration. New Yorkers deserve a functioning BOE that will not make excuses for repeated failures, can competently run an election, and actually empowers voters to cast their ballots. The current BOE commissioners have demonstrated they are unable or unwilling to reform themselves. So it’s time to create a new BOE.”