CITY HALL — City officials are worried that the troubled Board of Elections is not ready for the rush of voters expected to flood the polls to vote for president Tuesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called for BOE reforms and offered $20 million in city money for the agency to make changes, said he is confident about the "integrity" of the vote but unsure about the "efficiency" of the election.
"The eyes of the city will be on the Board of Elections this Tuesday," de Blasio said Friday at a City Hall press conference.
The concern is valid following a chaotic presidential primary in April in which voters complained about being improperly purged from the rolls — including entire blocks in Brooklyn that were removed. Other voters found out at the last minute that their polling places had been inexplicably moved.
BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said that names incorrectly purged from the rolls have since been restored.
The concern also comes as reports surfaced that terrorist organizations could be planning attacks for Election Day in three states, including New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York State Police and the National Guard remain on high alert because of the threat.
State counterterrorism officials are also coordinating with the state Board of Elections, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to "monitor threats" until the day after the election, said the governor on Friday assured "we’re going to be ready."
"Whenever they can disrupt democracy, that’s their ultimate goal," Cuomo said.
But it doesn't take the threat of terrorism to disrupt elections in New York City. The BOE has a history of doing that on its own through documented patronage and ineptitude that has led to voter disenfranchisement, slow election results and a lag in keeping up with the latest technology, critics say.
Add New York's antiquated voting rules, which don't include same-day registration, and early voting and you have a recipe for disaster, de Blasio said.
"We have some of the worst voter registration laws and we have a system that basically disenfranchises a lot of students and young people, a lot of people who work two jobs. It’s very hard to vote in this state compared to other states," said the mayor.
After April's primary debacle, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a probe of the agency that is "ongoing," according to a spokeswoman.
Schneiderman also launched a hotline for people to call if they encounter voting issues — 1 (800) 771-7755 or email: civil.rights@ag.NY.gov — which will be available from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Election Day to help resolve voter issues.
“My office is committed to ensuring that all eligible voters are able to cast an effective ballot on Election Day,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “If voters encounter any barriers to voting or improprieties at the ballot box, call my office immediately."
Comptroller Scott Stringer also launched an audit of the BOE after the April primary. His agency will be monitoring the BOE's performance during Tuesday's elections as part of the review.
“The bottom line is this: based on the hundreds and hundreds of complaints we’ve received, people have simply lost confidence in the BOE," Stringer said.
"Any presidential contest is a giant stress test for a city’s electoral system, and we will use Tuesday’s election to see if the BOE has learned anything from the primary day fiasco earlier this year."