ALBANI, NY – The New York City Board of Elections swept through the embers on Wednesday as lawmakers heard from frustrated poll workers, voters and advocates in an hours-lengthy hearing focused on election reforms.
Attendees at the hearing, held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, described woefully understaffed polling sites and absentee ballot problems that surfaced during the June primary.
Jane Compobiano of the Brooklyn Footers Alliance set the tone for the hearing as she described the difficulty of coordinating at an understaffed polling site where only nine of the 26 workers showed up on Election Day.
“We had queues all day,” she said. “Because we have enough people per lap, nobody can take a burst. I begged the Election Board for more poll workers.
“Democracy requires work and workers who practice democracy need aid,” she added.
Judith Hertzberg denounced what she described as the patronage system that allows political parties to appoint loyalists to elective office and advocated paid envelopes for absentee ballots.
“I’ve seen this in many aspects of the voting process,” she said. The voter experience must be improved.
The Senate hearing was the first of several that will take place across the state in the coming weeks. Senator. Zellnor Merry, D-Brooklyn, chair of the chamber’s election committee, said he hopes to hear directly from voters and poll workers as lawmakers consider sweeping reforms.
“I am excited to begin the process of introducing a world-class democracy to every voter in the state of New York,” he said.
Since it took a majority, Democrats in the legislature have already passed several election-related reforms, introducing beforetime voting and electronic ballot books and expanding mail-in ballots.
Lawmakers are now looking to legislation sponsored by the senator. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, would modernize the city’s Board of Elections leadership, define training and qualification requirements for staff and strengthen reporting and accountability procedures.
The hearings succeed a series of blunders by the Board of Elections that are calling for changes in how election systems are run in the city and across the state.
The City Board of Elections has faced criticism in recent weeks for issuing initial vote totals in a major primaries that included 135,000 ballot papers, representing the city’s first attempt at a vote on the rank selection.
Last year, prior the general election in November, the House mistakenly sent thousands of absentee ballots to the mistaken voters.
The board responded to the criticism and expressed a desire to share its side of the story in a tweet that provided the mistaken date for a planned hearing in Albany.
“We look forward to testing in person at the Albany Senate Elections Committee on September 28, 2021,” the board wrote on Twitter. “This will allow the Board of Directors to clear up misinformation and incomplete information and provide factual information about the New York City Board of Elections.”
The hearing in Albany is scheduled for September 3. 21.