How to Fix NY's Voting System in 10 Easy Steps


Photo by: NYC BOE

This Election Day, too many of New York’s beleaguered voters stood in line for hours and faced problems at the polls in order to cast their ballots. This was particularly inspiring since many New Yorkers have faced tremendous personal hardships in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. New Yorkers deserve a voting system that is worthy of that commitment and trust.

Chronic problems at poll sites require strong and immediate action from city, state and local governments, as well as from Boards of Elections. While many board staff and poll workers worked tirelessly before and on Election Day, clearly the state’s election system needs an overhaul.

Fortunately, the City Council already has a package of excellent election reform bills supported by Citizens Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, NYPIRG and others. New Yorkers should demand their passage from the Speaker and Mayor. Here are 10 of the top common sense reforms to NY’s archaic system of running elections that NYPIRG is recommending for the city and also at the state level:

10. County Boards should immediately include an optional email box on voter registration forms so voters can receive timely updates on poll sites, sample ballots and emergency information.

9. Change the make-up of poll sites. New scanners mean we can do away with specific ED sign-in tables and create more efficient poll sites.

8. Continue to support and provide funds to Boards of Elections for the use of modern technologies to reach and inform voters, maintaining voting systems and for Election Day operations.

7. Require more accountability from BOEs. For starters, mandate annual performance measures in a format like NY City’s Mayor’s Management Report.

6. Aggressive oversight of BOEs to ensure full compliance with laws on language assistance and access for voters with disabilities.

5. Automate registration using city & state databases that will automatically update a voters’ registration when they change address so they’ll stay registered if they move.

4. Improve poll site staffing and conditions by giving local, NYC, and State workers time-off for training and on Primary and General Election Day - if they work the polls. Professionalize poll worker training so unqualified and untrained staff don’t work the polls.

3. Replace the patronage structure of Boards of Elections with professional civil service employees.

2. Enact Election Day Registration to boost participation.

1. It’s time to explore bringing Early Voting to New York. An early voting system would reduce lines and potential chaotic sites on Election Day.