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Voting Problems Were at Their All-Time Worst During State Primary: Report

By Kathleen Culliton | December 6, 2016 4:41pm
 The attorney general called for voter reform after 1,500 people complained about the April election.
The attorney general called for voter reform after 1,500 people complained about the April election.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

NEW YORK CITY — An unprecedented number of New Yorkers faced difficulties voting in the 2016 presidential primary, according to a new report from the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The Office of the Attorney General received 1,500 complaints — 10 times as many as it has in any other primary — about restrictive deadlines, state agency errors and a lack of clear communication at polling sites in the primary election in April, according to the report released Tuesday.

There were approximately 1,000 complaints about registering with the city's Board of Elections and the Department of Motor Vehicles, according to the report.

Voters complained that the DMV failed to file registrations on deadline and that its registration program became unavailable after the high volume of users caused it to stall twice, according to the attorney general.

The Boards of Elections also filed registrations past the deadline and with critical errors, voters complained.

And on Election Day, voters faced reduced polling hours, limited access to affidavit ballots, and the lack of clear directions about who should vote where, according to the report.

Non-party affiliated voters reported that deadlines for party enrollment were restrictive.

Less than 3 million New Yorkers — or 21 percent of the state’s eligible voters — participated in the primary election, according to the report.

“The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement released Tuesday. “New York must become a national leader by protecting and expanding voting rights throughout the state.”

Schneiderman promised in his statement to introduce new legislation in 2017 to reform the state’s voting system and increase voter turnout.

The 2017 New York Votes Act bill would include mandates for a statewide system for early voting, extended polling hours, and provisions to facilitate registration — including same-day, online and automatic registration, according to the statement. 

The New York City Board of Elections is currently under a separate investigation by the state Attorney General as to why more than 100,000 Brooklyn voter registrations were canceled just before the primary.