The state Board of Elections got off on the wrong foot with voters Tuesday after it was revealed that many New Yorkers either received absentee ballots with the wrong envelope or absentees that gave the impression they were for military members only.
Currently, the BOE is making amends by attempting to send correct envelopes so ballots may be counted as valid in the Nov. 3 presidential election, but many are simply feeling the frustration of yet another year dealing the dysfunction from the board that – whether they mean to or not – disenfranchises the voters.
According to Melissa DeRosa, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aid, the problem which mainly affects residents of Queens and Brooklyn is being worked out.
“There were people who were getting the correct application but not the correct envelope, so we’ve obviously called the state Board of Elections and told them they have to deal with this right away. They’re an independent entity not an extension of our office but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to do everything we can to try to rectify this issue,” DeRosa said on Tuesday. “What they’ve said is they’re trying to look at ways to send those people who got those ballots new envelopes so that you’re not in a situation where you’re sending additional ballots.”
The BOE has sent out information over social media telling voters that if they received a ballot that says “absentee military” instead of “absentee/military” they can still vote using that sheet as it is only a design flaw.
But that did not stop some groups from sharing concerns about the disenfranchisement of New Yorkers of color as well as the elderly will likely avoid the polls due to COVID-19.
Following absentee ballot problems in the June primaries, we had hoped for a much more flawless process for the upcoming elections that would guarantee New Yorkers the right to cast their vote and make their voice heard,” AARP state Director Beth Finkel said. “Unfortunately, we are already seeing problems with a significant number of voters in Brooklyn receiving inaccurate ballots, which they cannot use to cast their vote. No one should be disenfranchised simply because they choose to vote from home out of concern for their health and the health of their neighbors, or because they are physically unable to go to the polls. We are especially concerned about communities of color, which have consistently been disenfranchised and have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s health and economic impacts.
The June 23 primaries were considered highly problematic after the number of absentee ballots invalidated due to late or missing postmarks materialized at up to one-fifth of voters as displayed particularly in Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s district which covers Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. This instance was even used by President Donald Trump in Tuesday night’s presidential debate in which he argued against absentee voting on the allegation that it’s fraudulent, though nothing shady has been revealed from this; simply voter disenfranchisement.
“The Board of Elections must take steps to ensure that the voters get the right ballot well in advance of Election Day. It should increase staffing at their call and email center. Then voters can call into the center at 1-866-VOTE-NYC to report receiving incorrect ballots, ask for a new one and be sent a new one and provide notice in the new ballot tracking system about the current status of those complaints,” Citizens Union Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum said. “New York City cannot afford to repeat the same problems of the June primary, when confusion and delays meant that thousands of voters did not know if they would get their absentee ballots on time. We encourage all voters who can, to take advantage of Early Voting, which is the best way to avoid crowded Election Day poll sites and ensure your ballot is counted in a timely manner.”
If you’ve received the incorrect envelope, you can request a new one by not only calling, but by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.