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Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY • Common Cause/NY • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest • New York Public Interest Research Group, (NYPIRG) • Professional Staff Congress/CUNY 

Civic Groups Give Mayor and Board of Elections “A’s” through “F’s” on Election Reform Report Card

Still Time for Improvements to Be Made By Mayor and Board of Elections, say Groups

 

Oct. 22, 2008: Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Board of Elections received grades ranging from “A’s” to “F’s” on a report card designed to rate efforts to improve conditions at poll sites (see attached.) The grades were released today by leading civic groups who stressed that immediate action was needed to improve conditions at poll sites.

 

“While the Mayor likes to position himself as a champion of reform, he’s done too little to actually improve the experience of voters at the polls,” said Neal Rosenstein, an Election Specialist with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG.) “Taken along with improper actions by the Board, many New Yorkers will face disenfranchisement, the same long lines and frustrating conditions at poll sites,” he added.”

 

In specific areas, both the Board and Mayor fared best with an “A” for putting a poll site locator online and enlisting 311 to help voters. The Mayor fared worst on the subject of making voting systems accessible to all voters with a grade of “F.” The Board also received an “F” grade for what the groups said were violations of state law relating to improperly purging voters from the rolls and for illegally targeting certain voters for ID checks.

 

Although new accessible voting systems will be in place alongside the city’s mechanical lever machines this November, the groups noted that the City has refused to pay for poll workers to assist voters to use them. As a result, poll workers will be taken from existing site staff, leading to longer lines for all voters.

 

 “To add to the problem, based on our polling site surveys from the Primary, most poll workers are not adequately trained on the these new machines and many are tentative about the use of the accessible features. This means that it may take longer for any voter to use the machines and take advantage of the accessible features in order to vote privately and independently at their polling sites,” said Susan Dooha, Executive Director, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York.

 

The groups said the Board of Elections received its “F” grade for improperly purging more than 30,000 voters from the rolls and for failing to ensure that certain voters would not be illegally targeted to show ID at poll sites. Taken together the groups said the Board’s policies will lead to confusion at poll sites and disenfranchised voters.

 

The organizations said some reforms could still be instituted before Election Day, but only if the Board and Mayor started to work together immediately. As examples, the groups credited the City for it’s recent agreement to place voter education ads in bus shelters across the city and credited the Board for agreeing to urge voters to copy down their Election District information provided on the Board’s website and bring it with them to the polls to reduce confusion. But the groups urged more meaningful steps to be taken immediately.

 

“Sending out notices to voters about where their poll sites are and which table to go to is a no-brainer that would greatly reduce confusion and lines on Election Day,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “But time has just about run out for improvements to be made,” she added.

 

“It is good that the Mayor has decided to better scrutinize actions at the Board of Elections by adding the Board of Elections to his management report, said Dennis R. Boyd of NYLPI, but the training and staffing of people who know how to use newly deployed accessible ballot markers at each poll site is critical.”


Election Reform Report Card

Mayor Bloomberg & New York City Board of Elections

 

Short Term Reforms That Can Take Place Before Election Day

 

Issue

 

Mayor Bloomberg

NYC Board of Elections

Explanation

Using Technology to Improve Service to Voters

A

A

The Board and Mayor deserve praise for placing a poll site locator online and for agreeing to have 311 help voters on Election Day. That should lead to quicker responses for voters seeking answers to questions.

Voter Education

 

B

D

Ad Campaigns & providing info to voters on the BOE web site. The city should be commended for running bus shelter ads telling voters how to find out their poll sites. The City has also offered the technical help required to display sample ballots to voters on-line yet the Board has expressed little enthusiasm for this simple step. Sample ballots would speed up lines at the polls and lead to better-informed voters. The Board should also offer voters to the chance to sign up for election-related email alerts online.

Voting System Accessibility

F

B

New accessible voting systems will be at every poll site this November, but the City won’t staff them. Voters with disabilities will finally have accessible ballot markers at polls, but the Mayor has refused the funds to staff the systems. That means longer lines as staff from other areas are called away to assist voters. 

Poll Site Mailings to Reduce Election Day Confusion

D

C

Sending out poll site notices before the General Election. The City and Board support the idea, but have only managed to point fingers at each other about how to pay for it. They need to sit down and figure it out. The only notice voters receive is sent in August. We need a mailing now with voters’ poll sites and ED/AD tables prominently featured. One positive note is that the Board’s earlier mailing had improved graphics this year.

Poll Site Accessibility

---

D

The Board of Elections should work to assure accessibility at all polling sites. The majority of NYC polling sites have barriers that can prevent people with disabilities from accessing their polling places. The BOE should work to remove those barriers and insist on the involvement of the Department of Education since the majority of polling sites are located in public schools.

Reducing Disenfranchisement at the Polls

---

F

The Board is violation state law by failing to check if they input voters information correctly into their system and has illegally purged voters. As a result, tens of thousands of voters have been improperly tossed off the rolls and thousands more unnecessarily asked to show ID at the polls. As a result, lines will also unnecessarily lengthen for all other voters. The Board needs to start following the law. The Board has also acknowledged that it might not process new registrants in time to place them in the books, forcing them to vote by affidavit ballot. That’s unnecessary, they simply need to hire the staff to get it done and the City needs to make sure they have the necessary funds.

Processing New Voters Before Election Day

---

?

Board staff have been working overtime to make sure a record number of new registrants will be in poll site books. Unfortunately, the Board might not process new registrants in time to place them in the books, potentially forcing thousands of voters to use error-prone affidavit ballots. They deserve credit for working long hours, but criticism for not anticipating the surge in new registrants.

 

 OVERALL GRADE

 

Mayor Bloomberg

C

Board of Elections

C