Of the over 400,000 mail-in ballots received by the New York City Board of Elections in the June 23 presidential primary, the BOE disclosed that some 84,000 of them, or 26%, were disqualified, the New York Post reported. Only 318,995 mail-in ballots were counted, leaving the rest invalidated and not counted, with some 30,000 nullified in Brooklyn alone.
Some of the reasons for disqualifying a quarter of the ballots was late arrival, lacking a postmark, failure to include a voter’s signature, or some other defect.
Voters were encouraged to vote by mail in order to avoid having to go the polls during the coronavirus pandemic, and Governor Cuomo signed an executive order to ease voting by mail by providing pre-paid envelopes. Yet some of the pre-paid postage envelopes were not postmarked.
Critics pointed out that the high rate of invalidation is a strong indication that election officials and the Postal Service were woefully underprepared to handle and process the myriad mail-in ballots.
“A 26 percent invalidation rate is astounding. It’s very troubling,” said Arthur Schwartz, who represented several candidates in a federal lawsuit claiming voters were disenfranchised over the BOE and Postal Service’s handling of ballots.
Manhattan Judge Analisa Torres ordered that ballots received by June 25 be counted, though the state Board of Election said it is appealing the ruling.
Many ballots were tossed out because the voters failed to sign the interior envelope that came with it. “The envelope with directions for the signature was so poorly designed,” Schwartz said.
Doug Kellner, co-chair of the state Board of Elections, proposed reforms to prevent another absentee balloting nightmare in November. His six-page proposal urged city BOE officials to ensure proper staffing at polling places during the November election and to add capacity to tally absentee ballots more quickly. It took six weeks to certify results from the primary.
City lawyers admitted in Manhattan federal court last week that they were still mailing absentee ballots the day before the June primary, leaving little chance they could reach voters in time.
Kellner wrote in a memorandum, “To those voters who did not have an opportunity to cast their ballots in the primary election, we should apologize for not doing more. Elected officials and others warned that we were not deploying sufficient resources to mail out absentee ballots in a timely manner, and in hindsight, we could have done more to address the problem.”