State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Tuesday that a spike in complaints from voters this year highlighted “legal voter suppression,” and said easier registration, early voting and better training of poll workers are urgently needed.
Many New Yorkers who sought to vote in the general election and in state, congressional and presidential primaries were denied because of outdated procedures or errors by state and local officials, according to a report Schneiderman released.
The report said the state Department of Motor Vehicles system that handles “motor-voter” registrations “stalled twice and ultimately went offline after receiving an unprecedentedly high volume of registration requests prior to the deadline.”
Schneiderman said the study of the state’s voting system was prompted by 1,500 complaints on Election Day — 10 times the normal volume. However, he couldn’t demonstrate whether any races, including the presidential primaries, were decided wrongly as a result of the problems.
Specifically, he said he had no evidence that the New York Democratic primary for president, which Hillary Clinton won by a significant margin over Sen. Bernie Sanders, was wrongly determined because some voters were denied their vote.
Some New Yorkers showed up at the polling places they’ve used for years to find the sites were no longer used for voting, while others were turned away by poll workers without valid reason, Schneiderman said. A separate probe continues into thousands of voters who were purged from the election rolls in Brooklyn this fall, he said.
“The problems were profound; the problems were widespread,” Schneiderman said. “This is a recipe for low voter turnout.”
He said his investigation found voters who were not enrolled in a political party missed a deadline to enroll as either a Democrat or Republican that had been arbitrarily set months before the primaries. He also said state agencies didn’t transmit registration information to local boards of election soon enough for some to be allowed to vote.
Schneiderman has proposed several bills to the State Legislature for the session that begins in January.
Among them are measures to allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day and to consolidate elections so voters don’t have to vote several times a year.