Monday, April 25, 2016


I have read multiple articles reporting on the purge of 126,000 Brooklyn Democratic voters, but I have yet to see anything that explains how this specifically impacted the vote in Brooklyn. Brigid Bergin quotes Mayor Bill de Blasio in her WNYC article,

“This number surprises me,” said de Blasio, “I admit that Brooklyn has had a lot of transient population – that’s obvious. 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.”

The New York Daily News writes,

Of 62 counties statewide, 61 saw an increase in total voter enrollment since November — including Hamilton County, the smallest in the state. And then there was Brooklyn — the state’s single most populous county. The borough lost an off-the-charts 8% of its active voters (102,717) and 6.5% of its total voters over that brief period.

A statement released from the Mayors office on primary day begins “It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists.” It ends with the line, “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to Michael J. Ryan, Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections, expressing his “deep concern over widespread reports of poll site problems and irregularities as New Yorkers headed to the polls on Primary Day, ranging from faulty ballot scanners and polling locations that opened late (or not at all) to poorly staffed polling sites and voters whose registrations were seemingly purged from the rolls without any effective notification.”

The voter hotline set up by the NYS Attorney General’s office received more than 1000 complaints on primary day, compared to 150 on the day of the 2012 general election. AG Eric Schneiderman also issued a statement concerning voting irregularities, and will be launching an investigation. 

And the cherry on top? NYC Board of Elections sent out a registration confirmation notice to some 60,000 newly registered voters with an incorrect September primary date. Then they sent out postcards with the corrected September 13th date, but didn’t bother to mention the April 19th presidential primary. William Neuman at the New York Times writes,

Officials initially played down the contretemps. But on April 5, Mr. Schneiderman sent a letter to Michael J. Ryan, the election board’s executive director, saying that the mix-up “may have misled eligible voters and could prevent their participation” in the primary. He asked for “immediate corrective actions.”

Ultimately, this isn’t really about who won or lost for me. As much as I might have liked to see Bernie continue his winning streak in New York, I am much more concerned with the disturbing pattern of voter suppression that seems to grow more acceptable with each passing caucus/primary. The New York Post is suggesting a single individual is being “scapegoated” for the Brooklyn voter purge. Certainly not the first time I have seen voter disenfranchisement disappeared through a campaign of distraction.

My partner and I were excited to finally have the opportunity to vote for Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend we had rallied and marched in Manhattan with thousands of other New Yorkers who were feeling the bern. Our favorite sign of the day simply read: “FINALLY A REASON TO VOTE.”

On election day, I was frankly amazed how light turnout seemed at my Brooklyn polling place. The calm trickle of voters stood in stark contrast to the tens of thousands of cheering Bernie supporters we had witnessed at multiple NYC rallies over the last weeks. We knew that a Sanders win in New York was all about turnout. We knew there was a surge of new voter registrations across the state, my partner just one of the many volunteers registering new voters for weeks prior to the March 25th deadline.

We knew that a huge number of Sanders supporters would not be able to vote for him, because they were not registered Democrats. Election Justice USA filed a lawsuit on Monday asking for an emergency declaratory judgment that would make Tuesday’s primary open, allowing independents (some 27% of New Yorkers) to vote in the primary. They pressed the lawsuit as a remedy for a group of New Yorkers whose saw their party affiliations mysteriously switched and would therefore not be able to vote for the candidate of their choice in the primary.

The morning of the vote I spent some time consoling folks online who felt they had been forced into voting for Clinton delegates. For example, our ballot listed 7 Clinton delegates and only 6 for Sanders, instructing us to “vote for any 7.” Our poll worker told us we could vote for less than 7 if we wanted, but he didn’t really know why that was the case. My understanding is that this is a preference vote: delegates go to convention only if the candidate they are pledged to gets a large enough percentage of the vote to send them. So, while voting for a Clinton delegate without voting for Clinton may increase the likelihood of that particular delegate going in place of another Clinton delegate, it doesn’t cause that delegate to go in place of a Sanders delegate. Make sense? That’s ok, it’s not supposed to.

I mention this to demonstrate how opaque the voting process actually is in New York. There are only two things on this ballot to vote for, yet one would be hard pressed to find folks who can explain how the delegate vote actually works. What is the minimum percentage of the vote your candidate needed to receive any delegates at all? Do they need that percentage statewide, or just in your district? If your candidate gets 100% of the vote in your district do they get all their district delegates regardless of their percentage of the vote statewide? Shouldn’t we know all this before going to the polls? 

Even before I went to vote, I had already heard Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer “demanding” answers from the New York Board of Elections. I couldn’t help but think of Arizona – again.

Maricopa County – the largest in Arizona, with over 60% of the state’s population. The largest county in the United States to contain a capital city (Phoenix). The fourth most populous county in the United States: Los Angeles County, Cook (Chicago) County, Harris (Houston) County, Maricopa. For comparison: Kings (Brooklyn) County, the most populous in New York State, comes in eighth.

Maricopa County is home to the 5th largest Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, approximately 1,250,000 people (in a state of 8 million). By comparison, the Bronx (County, the only majority Hispanic/Latino borough in New York City) has a Hispanic/Latino population of approximately 750,000 (in a city of 8 million, in a state of 19 million).

In 2008 there were 400 polling places in Maricopa County.
In 2012 there were 200.
On March 22, 2016 (primary day) – there were 60.

In other counties there was, on average, one polling place for every 2,500 voters.
In Maricopa there was, on average, one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

As if this isn’t bad enough, within Maricopa itself, the breakdown appears even more extreme. In a letter requesting a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation Into Disparate Distribution of Polling Locations in Maricopa County, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton writes,

For example, in Phoenix, a majority-minority city, County officials allocated one polling location for every 108,000 residents. The ratios were far more favorable in predominantly Anglo communities: In Cave Creek/Carefree, there was one polling location for 8,500 residents; in Paradise Valley, one for 13,000 residents; in Fountain Hills, one for 22,500 residents; and in Peoria, one for every 54,000 residents.

The limited number of polling places, resulted in 5 hour lines. Ari Berman at The Nation writes,

Previously, Maricopa County would have needed to receive federal approval for reducing the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This type of change would very likely have been blocked since minorities make up 40 percent of Maricopa County’s population and reducing the number of polling places would have left minority voters worse off.

Republican Governor Ducey issued a statement calling the long lines “unacceptable,” but then, Ducey did sign that budget cutting election funding. Similar to the New York statements, Ducey goes on to say, “Our election officials must evaluate what went wrong and how they make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell apologized (repeatedly) to the voters and took full responsibility for her error. But as it turns out, “sorry” is not democracy, so no one that lost their vote will be getting it back.

On April 14th the DNC released a statement concerning a joint lawsuit over voter disenfranchisement and voting irregularities in Arizona,

The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are filing a joint lawsuit in the United States District Court of Arizona on Friday on behalf of voters affected by voting irregularities resulting from the actions of state officials. The suit is a response to decisions that caused extremely long lines and needlessly disenfranchised voters, especially minority voters, during the state’s March 22nd presidential primary election, and includes affected voters, Former Chairman and First President of the Navajo Nation Peterson Zah, the Arizona Democratic Party, and the Ann Kirkpatrick for Senate campaign as plaintiffs.
The Clinton and Sanders campaigns joined the lawsuit after it was filed on the 15th. Bernie’s lawyer, Chris Sautter, was on the ground in Arizona immediately following the voting “fiasco.” According to the Washington Post, Arizona will be the fifth state that Marc Elias, Clinton campaign general counsel, has sued.

Wow – Democrats are all over this shit. Or are they? All but the Arizona lawsuit, were filed before this primary cycle. These lawsuits seek to “fix” problems in the future, not to make sure that every voter gets to vote and every vote is counted now. While our elected officials express their “deep concern” over “voting irregularities,” and the DNC positions itself as fighting the good fight against Republican voter suppression, the votes lost in this primary cycle go uncounted.

And this brings me back to what I mentioned earlier – the normalization of disenfranchisement. I’ve written frequently about the patriarchal (matriarchal), defensive posturing of the Democratic Party; protecting all of us from Republican efforts to strip us of our rights. Throughout this election cycle, we have seen two dramatically different outlooks. While the Clinton camp adheres to this pragmatic protectionist ideology, a hallmark of the Obama administration (and DNC election strategy), the Sanders campaign looks forward to what we can accomplish when we come together for the common good. When the DNC goes after Republican voter suppression, are we expecting outcomes that will insure free and fair elections, or is this just another “fighting for us” talking point? Is the public “outrage” of the Clinton endorsers I cited earlier – the NYC Mayor, the NYC Comptroller, the NYS Attorney General, and even the Mayor of Phoenix – meant to satiate our thirst for justice?

Thank goodness someone is doing something. Be prepared.


Related articles/updates:
BOE boss finally apologizes for 126,000 vanished voters – Rich Calder
Over 120,000 NYers Were Forced To Vote Via Affidavit Ballots In Last Week’s Primary – Nathan Tempey

Get involved:
Election Justice USA
Common Cause

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