ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York City Board of Elections was raked over the coals Wednesday as lawmakers heard from frustrated poll workers, voters and advocates at an hourslong hearing focused on election reforms.
Attendees at the hearing, held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, described woefully understaffed polling sites and issues with absentee ballots that surfaced during June’s problem-plagued primary.
Jan Combopiano of the Brooklyn Voters Alliance set the tone for the hearing as she described the difficulty of coordinating a woefully understaffed polling location where only nine of 26 workers showed up on Election Day.
“We had lines all day long,” she said. “Because we only had enough people for each roll, nobody could take a break. I begged the Board of Elections for more poll workers.
“Democracy takes work and the workers who practice democracy need help,” she added.
Judith Hertzberg decried what she described as the patronage system that allows political parties to appoint loyalists to election positions and argued for postage-paid envelopes for absentee ballots.
“I have seen this in many aspects of the voting process,” she said. “The voter experience must be improved.”
The Senate hearing was the first of several to be held across the state in the coming weeks. Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn, the chamber’s Elections Committee chairman, said he hopes to hear directly from voters and poll workers as lawmakers weigh sweeping reforms.
“I’m excited to begin the process of delivering a world-class democracy to every single voter in the state of New York,” he said.
Since taking over the majority, Democrats in the Legislature have already passed several election-related reforms, introducing early voting and electronic poll books and expanding mail-in ballots.