The Kings County Board of Elections purged 126,000 registered Democratsfrom the voting rolls in Brooklyn, prompting an outcry from Mayor Bill de Blasio and an audit from Comptroller Scott Stringer. “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,” de Blasio said. “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process and must be fixed.”
Polling places didn’t open on time, voting machines malfunctioned, and voters showed up to find their names weren’t on the rolls. Some voters had their party affiliations mysteriously switched from Democratic or Republican to independent or non-affiliated and couldn’t vote in the closed primaries. And 3 million New Yorkers, 27 percent of the electorate, didn’t get to vote because they weren’t registered with the Democratic or Republican parties, and the deadline to change party affiliation was an absurd 193 days before the April 19 primary, as I reported on Monday.
As a result, only 19.7 percent of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot, the second-lowest voter turnout among primary states after Louisiana, according to elections expert Michael McDonald. There were over 900 calls from frustrated voters to the Election Protection Coalition, more than in any other primary state.
In reporting on some of the voting issues that have risen during the party primaries in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Arizona these past few months — namely waiting lines as long as five hours and confusing new voter ID rules — The Nation’s Ari Berman often reminds his readers that the 2016 election is the first in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. His 2015 book, Give Us the Ballot, chronicles the events that led to the creation and passage of the landmark civil rights law, and the decades-long effort to undermine it.
The Fight to Vote, another book published just last month, explores the history of suffrage even further, all the way back to America’s founding. Author Michael Waldman, president of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, notes that from the very beginning, and at every step along the way, Americans have sought the right to vote and others have fought to stop them.
Throughout this tumultuous primary season, writer Ari Berman, author of the book Give Us the Ballot, has been keeping a knowledgeable eye on the impact of voting laws old and new. He is vigorously reporting on issues of disenfranchisement at the polling place and investigating the difficulties of registering and voting under a cloud of recent restrictive legislation, keeping all of us aware that what has happened so far could be a harbinger of big trouble ahead as we approach the actual November general election.