Unbelievable! For six weeks, no one had a clue or uttered a word about this voting-rights violation. That is, until Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny entertained local media by reciting the names of all 193 cities and towns in NY-21—except one, the town of Ballston. It was then that someone finally noticed.
You see, most of the town of Ballston, except the village of Ballston Spa, is in NY-20. Ballston Spa was redrawn into NY-21 in this year’s decennial redistricting.
Saratoga election commissioner Roger Schiera dismissed the omission by faulting the federal court’s maps for not having the same level of detail as maps provided by the state’s Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research (LATFOR) in the past.
“Whenever there is redistricting, it’s very difficult, especially when these new lines are drawn; we have to do street level details and parse these things out. You know, these houses are on one side, these are on another, the district line runs right through,” Schiera lamely told YNN.
State Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly disagreed. He countered that LATFOR worked with the federal special master to create digital shapefiles for the county boards to use.
On LATFOR’s website the NY-21 map clearly shows that Ballston Spa is in the congressional district. Ironically, the Saratoga County BoE is headquartered in Ballston Spa.
Schiera compounded his idiocy by adding, “[T]his mistake didn’t impact the outcome. Even if all of the Republicans eligible to vote had backed Kellie Greene [Doheny’s opponent], she still would have lost by more than 5,000 votes.”
Still in CYA mode, Schiera then blamed the Legislature for “the dysfunction surrounding redistricting [that] forced a truncated timetable onto elections officials and ultimately stripped hundreds of people from their rights as citizens.” [Emphasis mine.]
Hundreds of voters get stripped of their rights, and the election commissioner says it’s no big deal.
Really? (If it were New York City, all 10 election commissioners would have been publicly tarred, feathered and roasted.)
But upstate a local media outlet simply shrugged off the blunder, calling it a “cautionary tale” for state legislators in 2022. What’s in the water up there?
By contrast the New York City media and a host of politicians slammed the city BoE simply for providing an incomplete unofficial election night tally in NY-13. People got downright hysterical over tally sheets that recorded zeroes. (But eventually, not a single eligible voter was disenfranchised in the process. And like NY-21, the outcome was unaffected.)
When told about Ballston Spa, one city BoE official fumed, “I was told many years ago by Danny DeFrancesco [a now-deceased BoE executive director] that the counties upstate were able to do things that we could never get away with.”
The city BoE got its map-making right by having its management-information-systems team supervise staff gathered from all five borough offices in its central office, and by using the latest
The disparity doesn’t end here. Disenfranchising white voters in Ballston Spa isn’t a violation of any section of the Voting Rights Act.
Saratoga County isn’t covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, because the provision only applies to minority communities in three New York City boroughs. And Section 2 of the VRA only prohibits election-related practices that are intended to be racially discriminatory or have a racially discriminatory effect.
The next time Gov. Cuomo’s reinventing-government task force meets, they ought to consider (1) modernizing the election law, (2) establishing uniform best practices for the county boards of election, and (3) ending the anachronistic Section 5 VRA oversight.
While I’m glad the local media stink finally forced the New York City Board of Elections to revamp its election-night-results reporting procedure, we owe the city BoE an apology for taking them to the woodshed for mere clerical errors beyond their immediate control on June 26. Too often New Yorkers are ignorant of the Herculean efforts necessary to successfully manage the state’s largest and most complicated voting jurisdiction.
I truly believe that the integrity of the voting process should be protected for all New Yorkers regardless of race, ethnicity, creed or region.
In 2002 Michael Benjamin, a former New York State Assemblyman, supervised the Bronx BoE’s implementation of that year’s newly drawn districts.
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