New York’s primary mess prompts voters to demand change

Connor Dziawura, Behind the Scenes Editor, Puma Press

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What is democracy when citizens are stripped of their ability to vote?

This is what some voters are asking as many New Yorkers faced numerous polling issues in Brooklyn and other essential New York boroughs during the New York primary April 19. Less than a month after long voting lines and reduced polling locations plagued Arizona voters, New York voters are claiming voter disenfranchisement unlike any we’ve seen this election cycle.

On Monday, WNYC discovered that more than 63,000 Brooklyn Democrats were dropped from their party affiliation. As New York is a closed primary, this would prevent these would-be voters from casting their ballots without being registered as either Democrats or Republicans last October. On the day of the primary, WNYC updated the total to 126,000 Democrats that had been stripped of their party. Sparking outrage among voters, this also prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to question the day’s events, demanding an explanation from the New York Board of Elections.

In response to the initial 63,000 voters removed of their party affiliation, voters have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state with allegations of election fraud, Gothamist reports. One registered Democrat claims that forged documentation, featuring a “pixel-by-pixel” duplicate of his driver’s license signature, was shown to him with the intention of proving he authorized a party switch, while another citizen explained that their ability to vote since 1989 had been stripped along with their party affiliation. These are just a few of the many voters who have spoken out about forged documentation changing their political party. With over 200 New Yorkers signed onto the lawsuit, the controversy is picking up traction and voters all around the country are demanding justice as more issues come to light.

In addition to “clerical errors,” voters have reported claims ranging from polling location issues to miscommunication with voters. Last month, 60,000 voters received postcards misinforming them that the New York primary would not be taking place until September.

On the polling location side of the issues, voters had reported a plethora of problems faced in different precincts. In one precinct, polling began over two hours late because the elections coordinator did not show up, the New York Post shows. In addition to this, voters all around New York were reporting broken voting machines, with some precincts requiring voters to fill out paper ballots to be trusted to be fed into machines at a later time, according to US Uncut.

In Harlem, voters were even told there were no GOP ballots and were instead given Democratic ballots, television and radio contributor John Burnett reported via Twitter. He was later told he would have to wait for more ballots, also alleging to the New York Post that one poll worker even urged voters to support Hillary Clinton delegates.

Swarming the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with over 700 calls by Tuesday evening, citizens seeking to vote have voiced their concerns. This is over four times as many calls as were placed in New York in the 2012 general election.

In response to the reports, New York comptroller Scott M. Stringer pledged to audit the NY Board of Elections. Citing “irregularities” in the election process, Stringer is seeking to “make recommendations to improve performance” in the future. While it is hard to say whether the audit or the lawsuit will change the course of the New York primaries, allowing previously rejected voters to cast their ballots, it is important for Americans to speak out and demand change within the election process.

The frustration vented by many Americans during this election cycle is warranted; and as this is not the first instance of alleged election fraud in a county, voters should be vocal about their desires for justice. But how can we truly be Democratic when voter suppression silences our voices?

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