In the Federal election cycle four years ago, the Board of Elections admitted it unlawfully purged voter rolls. This year, the Board of Elections is accused of the widespread disqualification of absentee ballots.
By Progress New York Staff
The New York City Board of Elections is reportedly disqualifying between 20 to 30 per cent. of absentee ballots cast in some election districts in the June 23 Democratic Party primary, according to various news reports, raising the spectre that the embattled Government Agency may again be engaged in voter suppression. During the 2016 Democratic Party primary, it was revealed that the Board of Elections had unilaterally purged voter rolls, including removing over 100,000 voters in Brooklyn alone.
This year, voters in every borough of New York City requested absentee ballots in numbers greater than than in-person votes were respectively cast during the June 23 Democratic Party primary, according to a report published by Gotham Gazette. This was due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The widespread absentee ballot disqualification in this year’s Democratic Party primary, if allowed to stand, may propose to disenfranchise approx. 100,000 voters City-wide, based on the rate of disqualification in Queens, as reported by the New York Times. The widespread practise of absentee vote disqualification has triggered the filing of a Federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
In 2016, civil litigation filed in Brooklyn Federal Court over that year’s voter purge led the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn and the Office of the New York State Attorney General to join that lawsuit, triggering a settlement that was going to lead to at least some reforms. However, those reforms were apparently not enough to stop reports of widespread voter disenfranchisement in this year’s Democratic Party primary.
The Federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan attempts to downplay any wrongdoing by the Board of Elections.
The apparent, nonstop attempts by the Board of Elections to suppress votes in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Party primaries has been happening during a time of great upheaval in Democratic politics. Beginning in 2013 and continuing through this year, Democratic Party primary voters across the nation, reportedly the most progressive in the party, have voted out of office entrenched, corporate centrists, such as former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY 14), and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY 16). Critics have charged that the actions by the Board of Elections to purge voters and disqualify votes merely represents desperate attempts to protect incumbents.
Although some see hope in the new lawsuit filed in Manhattan, others see it as part of the problem. The Federal lawsuit challenging the disqualification of 2020 absentee ballots characterises the widespread voter disenfranchisement as a “snafu,” according to the Complaint and an accompanying Memorandum of Law filed in Federal Court. One of the lawyers, who filed the Manhattan lawsuit, Ali Najmi, was a political supporter of former U.S. Rep. Crowley. If the 2016 lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court is any indicator, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan may reasonably be expected to file motion papers to apply to join the Manhattan lawsuit as an intervenor. If that happens, then all voters should expect would be more promises of reforms, as were made in 2016. As it is, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has a pattern or practise of settling cases involving allegations of systemic corruption with nonprosecution agreements that largely allow bad actors to remain participants in the marketplace for corruption.
Besides disqualifying absentee ballots, the Board of Elections has been accused of denying in-person voters the full ballot or informing registered voters that they could not vote in the Democratic Party primary. During the early voting period preceding the June 23 Democratic Party primary, voters were also reportedly hampered by polling places located in disparate locations in some election districts. For this report, the press office supporting Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss never answered a press inquiry.
- Cuomo, Board Of Elections Sued For Disenfranchising Thousands of Voters Over Postmark Problems On Absentee Ballots (2020) [Gothamist]
- Suraj Patel files lawsuit in 12th District ballot battle with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (2020) [The New York Post]
- Over 20 Percent of Absentee Ballots Are Being Invalidated in Some Parts of NYC (2020) [NY1]
- City Board of Elections Admits It Broke the Law, Accepts Reforms (2017) [WNYC]
- With DOJ proposing to join lawsuit over voting rolls purge in Brooklyn, will Feds probe deeper ? (2017) [Progress Queens]