To the editor:
New York City is the laughingstock of our country because of the elections board’s repeated bungling. Well-publicized examples include the thousands of incorrect absentee ballots sent to Brooklyn voters last year, and the inclusion of test ballots in the preliminary ranked-choice count in the June primary.
There is a solution to the problem: Change the state constitution so that the state and city elections are no longer run by bipartisan elections boards. Right now, Democratic and Republican party chairs choose an equal number of state and local commissioners, and virtually all staff jobs are duplicated because these Democratic and Republican party bosses choose an equal number of staffers.
According to The New York Times, New York is the only state in the country like this.
The current system is all about power and patronage: New York state’s political parties, and the elected officials supported by them, don’t want to give up their power and the patronage jobs they control.
We should not have political parties running our elections, and we should not have staffers who owe their jobs to political patronage supervising our elections.
New York deserves better!
We support having an elected or appointed secretary of state to supervise elections at the state level, and a mayoral agency head appointment for the city. This has worked well in other states, and will provide for the accountability which is sorely lacking with the current elections board.
It is important, too, that the staff members supervising elections be civil servants free from any political pressure, and that hiring be based on “what you know,” not on “who you know.” There are plenty of people in our country with expertise in election administration, and they can be recruited to these non-partisan jobs.
Qualifications can be set forth in the legislation enacted by Albany.
Some say that agencies headed by appointees of an elected official would be just as problematic as the elections board. But, in fact, we saw from the 2020 federal election that most states — no matter whether the election process was supervised by Republican officials, Democratic officials, or non-partisan boards — conducted fair and timely elections.
And in New York City, we have seen mayors appoint excellent commissioners of, for example, health, housing or investigation — agencies which require substantial expertise. Administering elections demands an equal level of expertise and fairness.
Amending the state constitution to eliminate the dysfunctional bipartisan elections board will take time. The state legislature needs to pass the amendment in 2022 and 2023, and then have the amendment placed on the ballot. But, as we reflect on our democracy — threatened, as it is, on so many fronts — is there anything more important than fair elections?
Please call Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and our local representatives in Albany — Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi — and tell them that you want this change.
Sue Ellen Dodell
The author writes on behalf of the Riverdale Huddle, including Elizabeth Cooke-Levy, Helen de Pinho, Annemarie Golden, Sarah Hughes, Julie Marcus, Judith Minkoff-Grey, Ruth Mullen, Madeline Ritter and Dale Wolff.