Earlier this year, the Brennan Center published a report detailing how to improve election administration at the New York City Board of Elections (NYC BOE), which serves more than 5.5 million voters. While the city board’s failures often garner the most public attention, this study finds that they are not unique. Major flaws across the state’s other 57 local boards of elections (BOEs) too often hamper voting for 7.8 million more New Yorkers.
In the past two years alone, voters across the state waited in early voting lines for as long as two hours — four times the legal limit. The Rensselaer County BOE ignored state law and voters’ demands until a court ordered local election officials to establish an early voting site that was accessible for low-income voters who rely on public transportation. A high-profile court dispute over challenged ballots in the 22nd Congressional District revealed inconsistent practices across eight local BOEs, including the Oneida County BOE’s failure to register 2,400 voters who had applied in time to vote in the 2020 general election. The judge observed that it was impossible to know how many of these voters left their poll sites without casting a ballot.
In our first report, we recommended solutions that the state legislature — whose laws establish and govern local election administration throughout New York — should enact immediately to fix the NYC BOE’s notorious dysfunction. Our research beyond the five boroughs shows the need for many of the same solutions statewide, including greater accountability for commissioners, competitive hiring practices, improved training, and more information transparency.
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