Comptroller Stringer Report Finds Widespread Mismanagement in New York City’s Election Operations
The New York City Board of Elections (BOE) failed to properly account for poll site materials including scanned and affidavit ballots critical to ensuring a fair and accurate count
BOE did not document receipt of election materials from more than three-quarters of polling locations citywide and did not appropriately staff polling sites
Comptroller Stringer recommended BOE immediately recover any missing election records, ensure borough office staff account for all required election night materials, test equipment prior to deployment, and verify poll workers receive adequate training
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a new report of his office’s review of the New York City Board of Elections’ (BOE’s) Election Day operations, revealing widespread mismanagement and lax recordkeeping within the agency charged with conducting fair, accessible, and accurate elections in New York City. The Comptroller found that, for the 2019 General Election, the BOE did not account for one or more required items from a majority of poll sites, did not staff and equip sampled poll sites properly, did not provide required bilingual interpreters in some locations, and failed to provide access to records to show that sampled poll workers were properly trained and qualified under State law. The Comptroller’s review also found that 21 of 30 sampled poll sites were not accessible to New Yorkers with disabilities or compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other applicable law and BOE policies.
To guarantee a fair and accurate vote count, Comptroller Stringer called on the BOE to ensure that each of its borough offices reviews receipts from the 2019 election to find and recover any missing records. The Comptroller also called on the agency to expand its outreach efforts to recruit poll workers and interpreters; ensure polling locations are appropriate and accessible to all New Yorkers, and test equipment including poll books, cradlepoints, and ballot scanners to guarantee functionality during elections.
“There’s nothing more sacred in our democracy than the right to vote. To protect the franchise, New York City must be a beacon for clean and fair elections,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Our investigation found concerning evidence of mismanagement at the New York City Board of Elections, including lax recordkeeping, broken machines, staff shortages, a lack of bilingual interpreters, and inaccessible polling locations for those with limited mobility. These failures are unacceptable — they chip away at the safeguards that should encourage New Yorkers to vote and assure them that their ballots will be secured and counted. My message to the BOE is simple: do your job. The BOE must immediately review its procedures and stop the negligence we uncovered from undermining our democratic process.”
Comptroller Stringer’s review of the BOE uncovered the following findings:
The agency did not comply with federal and New York State Election Law and its own guidelines for Election Day procedures.
BOE failed to document receipt of election materials including scanned ballots and affidavit ballots from 989 of the 1,247 poll sites (79.3 percent) operated on Election Day 2019.
Bipartisan staff did not review delivery receipts for accuracy and sign verification forms in 94 cases.
Staffing shortages across 19 of 25 sampled poll sites (76 percent).
BOE did not assign interpreters to poll sites in accordance with the Federal Voting Rights Act and an applicable court order and Memorandum of Understanding.
BOE did not equally distribute poll workers between the two major political parties at poll sites for 46 of 81 sampled election districts (56.8 percent).
BOE failed to provide access to records to show that 50 sampled poll workers received required training.
A small number of poll workers in 14 of 30 sampled poll sites failed to follow BOE procedures or were cited by BOE officials for other performance issues, including lateness and failing or refusing to assist voters.
BOE failed to provide sufficient supplies or properly functioning equipment, ranging from electronic poll books and ballot scanners to envelopes, bags, seals to secure election materials, pens and markers, at 23 of 30 sampled poll sites (76.7 percent).
A majority of 30 sampled poll sites — 21 sites (70 percent) — were not accessible to New Yorkers with disabilities and did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), State law, and BOE policies and procedures.
Polling locations were located in unsuitable or unsafe areas including one poll site within a business that was licensed to sell alcohol and was not the ground floor.
Comptroller Stringer’s review included a series of recommendations to the BOE to ensure elections are conducted with accuracy, accountability, and transparency. The recommendations included:
Ensure that BOE borough office Chief Clerks and Deputy Chief Clerks review election night police and peace officer delivery receipts from the 2019 election to determine whether any election records are missing and, if so, immediately attempt to recover any missing vote records
Ensure that BOE borough office staff comply with the agency’s canvass and recanvass procedures
Expand outreach efforts for additional poll workers and interpreters
Guarantee bipartisan representation of poll workers
Verify that poll workers and coordinators receive appropriate training and pass exams annually
Test electoral equipment to ensure functional integrity including poll books, cradlepoints, and ballot scanners
Take all necessary steps to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure access to polling sites for all New Yorkers
To read Comptroller Stringer’s report on the BOE, click here.