New York state expects to get deluged with up to 5 million mail-in ballots in the November general election amid the coronavirus pandemic, four times more than the 1.2 million received in the June 23 primary, the state’s top elections official said.
“That will result in a slower count,” state Board of Elections Commissioner Peter Kosinski said during a virtual joint Senate-Assembly hearing Tuesday.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to think you’ll have a quicker count in November,” he added after saying he expected some 5 million mail-in ballots.
It took the New York City Board of Elections about six weeks to certify the count for the primary election, stretching into early August.
A slower vote count could have elections officials scrambling to have the election results for president race certified by Dec. 3 and submitted to the Electoral College on Dec. 14.
As of now, election officials say they don’t have additional resources or manpower to count that many ballots in a timely manner.
That could spell trouble especially in New York City, where the tardy processing and handling of thousands of applications and ballots during the primary triggered a federal lawsuit that forced a recanvassing of disputed votes.
During a joint Senate-Assembly hearing, lawmakers questioned New York City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan over the primary ballot mess and wondered whether the agency would be better prepared for a tidal wave of mail-in ballots for the presidential election.
“People were not getting the ballots in time so they could vote in the primary,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).
“For many New Yorkers, voting was functional. But too many New Yorkers saw democracy fail them during this pandemic. Thousands of ballots were discarded,” Senate Elections Committee Chairman Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn).
Ryan admitted he had staffing issues that had to be resolved.
He said the city was still under a lockdown in early June and he had to “negotiate” with the union representing 600 employees to come back to work in order to prepare for the primary elections while adhering to social distancing and other COVID-19 safety rules.
He also passed the buck to the Postal Service, saying ballots were sent to voters on time to be counted.
“We cannot speak for the operations of the Post Office. We don’t deliver them to the houses of the voters. We deliver them to the Post Office,” Ryan said.
He said the problems with ballots that weren’t properly post-marked or arrived late were centered in Brooklyn while the handling of ballots went more smoothly in the rest of the city.
Ryan reported that 23 percent of the mail-in ballots were disqualified, many for failing to contain a voter signature. That’s comparable to the invalidation rate of 21 percent when there’s not a pandemic.
The difference, he said, is that many more people voted by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 crisis after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order making it easier to do so.
A Post analysis of city BOE data revealed that 84,000 mail-in ballots for the Democratic presidential primary weren’t counted.
Meanwhile, a state Board of Elections official said the city BOE has to do a better job of alleviating lines at the polls in a presidential election year.
“New York City has never been able to comply with the 30-minute waiting rule. That’s because the turnout in the presidential election is so much greater. We saw many poll sites with three hour waiting times,” state BOE Co-Chair Doug Kellner said.
Source: New York Post
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