The City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus (BLAC) last week demanded systemic reforms to the state’s voting laws, and the depoliticization of the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) and its leadership, including hiring a professional staff whose applicants would be subject to standardized civil service testing.
BLAC made their demands and thoughts made clear at a council oversight hearing this week on this month’s Election Day debacle. This included widespread ballot scanner failures, prolonged wait times, and inaccessible poll sites plagued voters throughout the fifteen-hour ordeal two weeks ago.
These latest mishaps occurred roughly one year following an agreed upon settlement between the State Attorney General’s Office and BOE for the board’s unlawful purge of over 200,000 New Yorkers from the voting rolls in the run up to the state’s 2016 primary election.
“New York’s consistent bottom of the pack ranking in voter turnout will never improve absent reform but the changes we seek to our antiquated voting laws must be accompanied by wholesale change at the City Board of Elections,” said Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus co-chair Council Member I. Daneek Miller (D-Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens). “BOE’s inadequate preparation for the general election disenfranchised an untold number of voters, which demands a sweeping overhaul at the agency. Only then will we experience a greater and more diverse level of participation at the polls; one motivated by the measures we expect the Legislature to pass next year.”
BLAC is also lending its voice to the call for long advocated voting reforms, namely early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and both automatic and same-day voter registration, but recognizes these provisions would be moot without a wholesale revamp at BOE that effectively ends the patronage system contributing to the gross incompetence there.
“In order to improve the numerous voting issues in New York City, not only does the Board of Elections need an administrative overhaul but we must also reform the antiquated voting process,” said City Council Member Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park). “Our system is completely broken and desperately in need of innovation. What happened on Election Day is unacceptable. We demand proper fixes and accountability – let’s begin with early voting!”
“The BOE may issue excuses for its badly fumbled handling of the 2016 midterm elections, but it can’t give us a single valid reason,” said Council Member Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, LaGuardia Airport). “Whether it’s the two-page ballot or high voter turnout, all these issues were known long before Nov. 6 and the BOE’s embarrassing lack of preparation is inexcusable. When our officials fail to protect our most sacred civic duty they are allowing the American experiment to fail. This midterm exposed the dysfunction within the BOE and made clear the agency must be overhauled.”
The City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian (BLA) Caucus consist of 26 of the 51 Members of the City Council. The Caucus convenes to make sure that issues of particular concern to the City’s Black, Latino, and Asian communities are being addressed through the legislative, oversight, and budgetary powers of the City Council