The embattled New York City Board of Elections reported Tuesday that it has processed 685,000 mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election and re-sent absentee ballots to 99,000 voters in Brooklyn to replace its own botched mailings.
“Ninety percent of all [absentee ballot] applications have been processed. We’re keeping up with it well,” Executive Director Michael Ryan said at a board meeting.
Officials have been promoting mail-in balloting — referred to as absentee balloting for voters who are unable to get to the polls but open to all in New York who claim a COVID-19 exemption provided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — to reduce crowds at polling sites over concerns about the virus.
But Ryan first said the agency is nearly done cleaning up the ballot fiasco after its printer, Rochester-based Phoenix Graphics, sent out erroneous mailings to numerous voters in Brooklyn that contained return envelopes with other people’s names and addresses on them.
Then the printer’s software upgrade lost the error logs following the mechanical glitch, making it difficult to pinpoint how many defective mailings went out.
A similar problem happened in Nassau County, but the forensic data was not lost. Nassau only had to resend 800 ballots to voters who received error-filled envelopes.
Ryan said the ballots with the correct return envelopes and oath statements had been mailed out to 99,000 voters, and they will hit mailboxes this week.
He said an explanatory letter was included with the corrected ballot packages, which recommended that voters destroy or throw out the prior ballots and botched envelopes they had received.
Voters in affected areas will also receive robocalls and ads were placed in Brooklyn media outlets to explain how the snafu was being addressed.
“There was an issue with the ballot distribution in Brooklyn. Some received the wrong oath envelopes,” Ryan said.
“As of today, all of those ballots have been processed by the vendor. That circumstance has been remedied,” he claimed, not addressing the confusion and distrust in the mail-in voting system caused by the screwup.
Ryan said voters can submit their absentee ballots in drop-off boxes at early voting sites if they don’t want to take a chance on mailing them as well as Board of Elections offices.
Ryan and board officials also said they’re encouraging New Yorkers to vote at designated polling sites during the nine days of early voting that runs from October 24 to Nov. 1.
Following the Brooklyn mailing fiasco, lawmakers and voting rights advocates are urging New Yorkers to vote early in person — as an alternative.
New York state first approved a dramatic expansion of its absentee ballot program for the June 23 primaries as the coronavirus pandemic tore through the five boroughs to prevent the typical Election Day crowding at polls, which could allow the disease to easily spread.
However, the BOE struggled and ended up disqualifying more than 80,000 votes for largely technical reasons — many of which were caused by the board itself or the postal service.
The last day to register to vote is Friday, Oct. 9.
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