Worse than Georgia? NY Election law disfranchising 13,000, advocates say

New York Elections

NEW YORK — Advocates say some aspects New York’s voting laws suppress more voters than even the controversial new Georgia voting law.

Wednesday they highlighted a “legal pitfall” that disenfranchised more than 13,000 voters during the 2020 General Election cycle.

Arguably, the biggest impact was felt in the race for New York’s 22nd Congressional District in upstate.

“Out of 320-thousand ballots cast, I lost by 109 votes,” said Former Rep. Anthony Brindisi.

He was defeated by now Rep. Claudia Tenney in one of the tightest races in the country and after a long legal battle over ballots.

“Losing by 109 votes is frustrating, but what was more frustrating for me is knowing there were hundreds of legally registered voters who cast their ballots, but who through no fault of their own never had their vote counted,” Brindisi said.

The problem comes down to voters accidentally showing up to the wrong polling place. Legally, this has become known as the “wrong church, wrong pew,” scenario.

New York State law says if you show up to the wrong polling place by mistake, a poll workers should point you to the right location. However, Voting Advocacy Group “Vote Early NY” found what often happens instead is poll workers, trying to be helpful, allow conditional voting using an “affidavit ballot.”

What follows is that unbeknownst to the voter, election officials are required to automatically toss out these improper votes. Most states, including Georgia, have a mechanism that allows some votes to still be counted.

The issue of throwing out ballots is a particularly big problem in New York City, including in Assemblyman Robert Carroll’s Brooklyn neighborhood.

“There are folks that not only have 2-3 polling places close to their house, but sometimes the polling place across the street is not where they are supposed to go to,” Carroll said.

The Assemblyman is pushing legislation to stop so many ballots from getting thrown away.  It is poised for a vote in the Assembly, but has yet to make it our of committee in the Senate, and is unlikely it will be implemented by the June Primary. So make sure you know your correct polling place here.

In general New York has steadily been working to fix its archaic election laws that disqualify tens of thousands of voters every election for one reason or another.  Tuesday, Governor Cuomo extended voting rights to people on parole.

However, in recent elections PIX11 News has documented how New Yorkers have issues with early and absentee voting, registering and slow counting. 

In fact, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo both called for a complete overhaul of the statewide election board system last year. 

Carroll and others pushing the “wrong church, wrong pew” fix said they understand why people want more drastic change.  But they said building on small immediate fixes was a better route, and one that would face less legal challenges based on the state constitution.

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