Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Schneiderman Says Flawed Election Procedures Marred State’s Primary

December 8, 2016

As published by the Wall Street Journal on December 6, 2016.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that flawed election procedures and laws led to what he called an unprecedented number of voting complaints during the state’s April presidential primary.

In announcing the results of his inquiry into voting complaints, Mr. Schneiderman said his office’s voter hotline received 1,500 calls around the primary, “10 times the previous high mark.”

About two-thirds of the complaints stemmed from barriers created by voter-registration rules and practices, he said. Twenty percent of the complaints involved rules or laws related to the voting process, such as reduced poll hours in some counties and voters confused about polling places that had moved.

He said 12 counties, including the five that make up New York City, account for more than 80% of the complaints statewide.

“The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” said Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat. He said 2.9 million New Yorkers, or about a fifth of those eligible to vote in the state, cast ballots in the primary.

The New York State Board of Elections didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Some of the same issues also were the subject of the complaints around the Nov. 8 general election, Mr. Schneiderman’s office said.

Among the laws that Mr. Schneiderman said were problematic was the state’s deadline for changing party registration, which he said was “by far the most restrictive” in the U.S. State election law requires registered voters to submit changes to party enrollment by the 25th day before the general election of the previous year.

This meant that the deadline to change parties before the April 19 election was Oct. 9, 2015, or 193 days before primary day, Mr. Schneiderman’s office said. The amount of time between the deadline to change parties and the presidential primary was 55 days in New Jersey and 91 days in Connecticut, according to Mr. Schneiderman’s report.

The attorney general’s office proposed changes to simplify the voting process, including online voting registration and same-day registration for new voters.

The office said its investigation into the removal just before the presidential primary of more than 100,000 people from voter rolls in Brooklyn would continue.

A spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Elections didn’t respond to requests for comment.

About a week after the April primary, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the board “an outdated organization in dire need of modernization” and said $20 million would be made available to pay for improvements, including hiring an outside operations consultant and enhancing poll worker training.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the mayor said the board hadn’t yet accepted the funding offer. “We’re continuing conversations in the hopes of moving forward necessary reforms,” the spokeswoman said.