How To Vote In The New York Primary If Your Polling Place (Incorrectly) Says You’re A Registered Independent Or Not Registered At All
Happy New York Primary Day! Have you voted yet? If you have, good for you! If not, and you’re planning on it, there’s a controversy swirling that NY Democrats in particular need to be aware of: yesterday, dozens of New York State residents, represented by the group Election Justice USA, filed a lawsuit against the state saying that their voter registration changed without their input, costing them the ability to vote in today’s primary.
“We were seeing an alarming number of voter affiliations changed without people’s knowledge or consent, people who were registered listed as not registered,” said Shyla Nelson, a spokeswoman for Election Justice USA.
On my Facebook feed alone, I’ve already seen three friends claim to have encountered this issue when they went to vote today — either they weren’t listed as registered at all (despite having voting in previous elections while living at the same address) or had their party affiliation listed as Independent. The New York primaries are closed, which means only members of a given party can vote in that party’s primary — if you’re not registered or suddenly find your registration altered to another party, you would be unable to vote the way you planned today. In fact, even if you were extra cautious and called to check that your registration was correct in advance of voting today, you would likely be shit out of luck because the deadline to change your registration was six months ago, in October, the earliest in the country.
The lawsuit argues that there are “tens of thousands” of potential plaintiffs and demands a blanket order allowing for those impacted to vote regardless of party affiliation. That ruling is still pending, but advocates are hoping for a judgement by the end of the day. (I’ll get into what you should do if your registration is among those impacted a little later in this post.)
New York City seems to have been hit particularly hard by this shady weirdness, in particular, the borough of Brooklyn where yours truly resides. According to the NYC Board of Elections, 126,000 Brooklyn Democrats have been removed from the rolls since last fall.
Executive Director Michael Ryan told the New York Post that the NYC Board of Elections is “a little behind.” Ahem:
Ryan said the mystery is easily explained: Because of retirements and staff illness, the voting list was not properly maintained in Brooklyn for six to eight months.
When staffers caught up with the backlog, he said, they purged voters who should have been removed earlier last year.
Ryan also broke down the numbers of purged Brooklyn Dems to WNYC, saying that 44,000 voters were inactive, 70,000 were removed from the inactive voter list, and 12,000 people had moved out of the borough. But Mayor Bill de Blasio is unsatisfied by that explanation, saying he was confused and asked for further information.
“I admit that Brooklyn has had a lot of transient population—that’s obvious,” de Blasio told WNYC. “Lot of people moving in, lot of people moving out. That might account for some of it. But I’m confused since so many people have moved in, that the number would move that much in the negative direction.”
I haven’t yet voted — my plan is to stop by my polling place in a few hours, proudly casting my ballot for Bernie Sanders, but because I’m suspicious that Sanders supporters are the most likely to be impacted, I decided to do a little research on what I and my fellow New Yorkers should do if you find yourself in peril of being disenfranchised at the voting box.
Step 1: Check your registration. Here’s a handy website! If you’re confirmed and correctly registered, print that shit out and bring it with you. If your registration is not what it should be — like your party affiliation has changed or you’re just not in the system and you know you’re supposed to be…
Step 2a: Pay a visit to your local Board of Elections. If you have time, you can make your case in front of judge. If they rule in your favor, you’ll be provided with paperwork that you can present to your polling place, allowing you to cast your ballot how you please. If you DON’T have time to go yell at a judge that the Board of Elections is being paid off by Clinton fan and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (as legit as this conspiracy theory is in my mind, I wouldn’t actually advise you to shriek such truths at a judge, so don’t actually do this)…
Step 2b: Ask for a provisional ballot at your polling place. You’ll be able to vote AND make your case for why your vote should be counted, much like you would before a judge, per Step 2a. If you’re deemed ineligible, you should be alerted with a letter in the mail. At the very least you would have done your damndest to cast your ballot.
Step 3: Make your voice heard. Seriously, this shit is NOT OKAY. According to Gothamist:
You can report problems to the hotline set up by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at (800) 771-7755; to the New York U.S. attorney’s offices at (718) 254-6323 (for Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk counties) and (212) 637-0840 (for New York, Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester counties); or to the FBI, at (212) 384-1000.
Step 4: Share this post with your fellow New York Democrats. Email, Facebook, Twitter, bellowing out the window, I don’t care — we need to do what we can to make sure every New Yorker who believes they followed the rules of registration CAN and DOES vote.