Following the April 19th presidential primary, local Leagues were asked to email us the problems that occurred in their areas. I wish to thank those Leagues who responded. Two Leagues did report that there had been no difficulties they were aware of in their counties, which was great news. The other Leagues wrote of numerous and varied problems which ranged from untrained or unconcerned poll workers, to inaccurate poll books where names of registered and enrolled voters did not appear, to disenfranchised voters who did not know about new YORK’S closed party system and either thought that because they always voted for a certain party, they were enrolled in that party or who believed because they were “independent ” and unaffiliated that they could vote in the primary. One League reported a high voter turnout where some of their poll sites had to be kept open past 9 PM while another League reported low turnout. Most reported a high amount of affidavit ballots being filled out. The percentage of affidavit ballots that were ultimately counted ranged from 42% in Onondaga County to only 10% on Long Island. Reasons for the discrepancies are not known at this time.
However, we do know that there were problems with many people in New York feeling disenfranchised. We know that our Election Laws are archaic and need to be changed but that this will not happen this year. We also know there will be a congressional primary on June 28 (and are pleased several Leagues will be holding congressional primaries), a state primary in September and a general election on Nov.8th. At our May board meeting, we discussed what local Leagues can do now. We urge local Leagues to contact their Board of Elections and meet with them to discuss ways to improve voting, including educating poll workers as well as informing voters of dates and poll sites. We ask Leagues to see if their Board of Elections holds open meetings and if so to attend them. Leagues also need to explore new ways to educate voters about the Election Laws and rules as well as important dates. We all do voter registration drives and put information on our web sites and in our Voters. We need to write letters to editors of our local papers (only the President can submit one in the name of your League). We need to increase our use of social media. We need to think out of the box. We also need to continue to explore reasons for some of the problems and how they can be alleviated. Recently I learned from an Election Protection lawyer that some voters had not checked their party enrollment when they re-registered to change their name or address thinking that they were not changing their party. As a consequence, they were no longer enrolled and not allowed to vote in a primary. Therefore we now know to make sure when someone re-registers that they complete the form and check their party affiliation. Knowing what went wrong, will help us set things right. More people are engaged and aware of what occurred on Primary Day. This is the opportunity to educate them and turn out the vote.