Politics

New York Voter Purge Sheds Doubt On Primaries

| by Nik Bonopartis
A lever on an analog voting machineA lever on an analog voting machine

If we're to believe New York officials, one woman was responsible for the SNAFU that led to more than 100,000 registered Democrats, all of them from Brooklyn, Sen. Bernie Sanders' birthplace, getting purged from the voter rolls.

Diane Haslett-Rudiano, the Board of Election’s chief clerk, was suspended without pay on April 21, two days after the disastrous primary. Officials say they'll try to terminate Haslett-Rudiano at their next board meeting, and the Board of Elections pledged to get to the bottom of the mishap with an internal investigation.

As primary season rolls on, and the presidential candidates turn their focus toward states like Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland, New York's bigwigs are probably hoping a single scalp will put the whole issue to rest.

Yet the problem seems more pervasive than one elections clerk who skipped a step while trying to purge the rolls of dead voters and voters who have moved out-of-state.

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As the state's attorney general's office logged more than 1,000 voter complaints during the April 19 primary and reports of people turned away at the polls became rampant, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer didn't sound like a man who would be satisfied with firing one clerk.

New Yorkers, Stringer told CNN, "lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic and inefficient."

“The next president of the United States could very easily be decided tonight and yet the incompetence of the Board of Elections puts a cloud over these results," Stringer said, per WCBS.

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said the disenfranchisement of voters "undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process," according to NPR. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office handled the majority of complaints, said "voting irregularities appeared unusually high."

And, of course, the Sanders campaign and thousands of Sanders supporters wondered aloud how such a large-scale mistake could happen, and why it happened in the one borough where Sanders might have defeated rival Hillary Clinton.

"It is absurd that in Brooklyn, New York -- where I was born, actually -- tens of thousands of people as I understand it, have been purged from the voting rolls," Sanders said during an evening campaign rally at Penn State University.

So far there's no evidence that the voter purge was part of some pro-Clinton effort, but it doesn't help that the Clintons have repeatedly stretched campaign rules by appearing outside polling locations in states like New York and Massachusetts. Most of those appearances were feet from the schools, libraries and firehouses that double as poll sites. Some of those appearances kept people from exercising their right to vote, with Secret Service agents boxing them out for the hours it takes to secure a site ahead of a former president.

It also doesn't help that, with each of those appearances, the Clintons seemed to either break the law or walk right up to the line of legality, with officials looking the other way like NBA referees giving a superstar player the benefit on a foul call.

The 2016 election has been marked by increasingly pitched rhetoric, unconventional ideas from unconventional candidates, Twitter flamewars and the repeated repudiation of establishment politicians. But when it's all said and done, 2016 might be known as the year Americans finally got fed up enough with the election system to do something about it.

It's not just the micro issues with polling centers and voter rolls. Nationally, voters have been disenfranchised by party leaders and the patchwork of variable primary and caucus laws in each state. Candidates and part officials on both sides of the political divide have been using those idiosyncratic laws to minimize the power of the individual vote and maximize the power of hand-picked delegates.

In the U.S., voting is supposed to be sacrosanct, the cornerstone of Democracy, but you wouldn't know it from the way both parties work to undermine the votes of regular Americans at every turn.

So no, the New York fiasco shouldn't be put to rest with the firing of one mid-level Board of Elections official. The whole system should be turned upside down, and whoever ends up in the Oval Office should make it a priority to modernize an archaic voting system so that elections are fair and decided by the people, the way they're supposed to be.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: CNN, New York Daily News, American Mirror, NPR, WCBS / Photo credit: Pauljoffe/Wikimedia Commons

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