Politics

New York Voter Purge Does Not Shed Doubt On Primaries

| by Nicholas Roberts
Mechanical voting machines in NYCMechanical voting machines in NYC

Tuesday's primary in New York was marked by reports of widespread voting irregularities in parts of Brooklyn.

Voters showed up to polling places where there were no workers, they were sent by poll workers to the wrong polling places, voting machines were said to be outdated and broken and 125,000 Democratic voters in the borough were said to have been purged from voting rolls, The Atlantic reports.

It is clear that whatever occurred in the city on April 19 deserves to be looked at by the city government. Democratic mayor Bill De Blasio and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer issued biting, critical statements directed at the city's Board of Elections, CNN reports.

And yet, despite widespread complaints from voters, it seems the final results of the state primary would still have left Hillary Clinton with a significant lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders even if these irregularities had not occurred.

While reports of voting irregularities in the primary were widespread on Tuesday and Wednesday, nearly all of them took place in Brooklyn, although there are some reports of irregularities in Queens. Clinton won Brooklyn by almost 20 percentage points over Sanders, and she won the state by around 290,000 votes.

This means that even if every one of the 125,000 Democratic voters in the borough who were reportedly purged from the rolls went for Sanders, and this is assuming that all of them would be voting in the primary anyway, the Vermont senator would still be well behind Clinton in the popular vote. At best, Clinton would have gained a victory of around 54 percent support had all of these voters supported her rival, instead of a victory with 58 percent support, 

This, of course, does not mean the horror stories coming out of the New York primary aren't real or should not be given attention. Quite the opposite; some of the stories are terrible and clearly indicative of a system run by officials who don't want to change the status quo. Disregarding the fact that New York is a closed primary and requires voters to register with a party six months before the actual primary election, some of these stories clearly indicate fraud.

The Daily Beast's Ben Collins gives several examples: a woman who registered in 2008 as a Democrat was told she had been registered in 2004 as a Republican, and was shown a signature that clearly did not belong to her. A man registered in Queens had the same name and middle initial as another voter in the Bronx who was not registered as a Democrat, and polling workers associated the latter man's information with the former despite previous assurances that this would not happen.  

So, there is clearly a need to investigate the city's Board of Elections to prevent these stories from happening in the future. But it is much less clear just exactly who this 'purge' was supposed to benefit, as supporters of Clinton were surely among those 125,000 who had been purged from the rolls.

It's an odd and troubling problem, and New York is hardly the only place where reports of voter suppression have come out of during this election season. But it seems very clear that purge or no purge, Clinton had a resoundingly strong showing in the state.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: CNN, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast / Photo credit: Mark Lyon/Flickr

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