Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Foul-ups faced by voters last week at polling sites in Brooklyn drew instant national attention for three logical reasons — timing, size and location.
Not only did they fall on the day of New York’s hotly hyped presidential primary, but they occurred in the very place that the national Democratic organization passed up as the site of its July convention, in favor of Philadelphia.
These latest voting fiascoes are due for investigation by several agencies including the New York City and state boards of elections, the state attorney general’s office and the city comptroller’s office.
The city board announced last week that it indefinitely suspended its borough office chief clerk Diane Haslett-Rudiano without pay. What those unfamiliar with the system may find strange is that she’s a Republican.
That’s because, as with local boards all over the state and the state board itself, election positions are divided between the two major parties.
This rule by duopoly doesn’t make the boards detached from partisan concern — just designed with built-in tension.
In Kings County, with a staggering 853,687 active Democrats on the rolls compared to only 100,363 active Republicans, this power-sharing arrangement might seem to the uninitiated like affirmative action for the GOP.
There is no sign that Rudiano’s party affiliation, or anyone else’s, was behind some 126,000 names being removed from “active voter” lists or purged entirely. Nor is there evidence any candidate’s backers were purposely targeted for snags.
Remedies should be available. Voters not found on lists are supposed to receive affidavit ballots whose validity can be checked and verified after the primary to see if someone was wrongly rebuffed. If so, the vote gets counted later. Dozens of lawsuits were launched on behalf of frustrated would-be voters.
On Long Island, unconfirmed suspicions arose of irregularities — for example, about how lines were handled in polling places in Nassau’s 9th Senate District, where a special general election was held alongside the presidential primaries.
But the starkest reports seemed to come out of the city. Along with the removals from the rolls, problems included poll sites that didn’t open at 6 a.m., election workers who didn’t know their jobs, and board mailings with misinformation.
Maybe New York City’s investigations will shed new light by the time Democrats and Republicans will have convened, three months from now in Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively.