At a Board of Elections Commissioners’ Meeting Tuesday that was overshadowed by the Rangel/Espaillat congressional primary, commissioners couldn’t decide whether or not to support a costly bill passed by the state Legislature this session that requires ballots to be printed in Russian.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s counsel had written to the BOE seeking its advice and recommendations on whether or not the governor should sign the bill, but BOE counsel Steve Richman said that implementing it would be enormously expensive.
Implementing it would cost the city “$600,000 to $700,000 per election,” Richman said, for the more than 2,700 interpreters that would be needed to staff polling sites, and an additional $6 million per election for ballots.
The bill requiring the Russian language ballots was “written in a poor an unclear manner” that made it difficult to interpret, Richman said.
The cost projections seemed to alarm the commissioners, who said they would like Richman to write back to the Cuomo with their cost findings, without a recommendation on what the governor should do.
A bill requiring translation of voting materials into Russian was passed in 2009, and a stronger bill was passed this year because the earlier bill was never implemented.
All of which has displeased Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who co-sponsored this year’s bill with State Sen. David Storobin. Cymbrowitz drafted a release calling for Richman to resign.
“Mr. Richman’s action comes after years of inaction,” the release says.
“The Board of Elections has refused to abide by a 2009 law, which I fought for, requiring that voting materials be translated into Russian. As the Board’s top legal official, he is responsible for his agency’s failure to abide by the law,” Cymbrowitz said.
“Now, with the Legislature’s passage of stronger legislation I introduced, the Board of Elections would prefer to continue discouraging thousands of Russian-speaking New Yorkers from voting rather than developing procedures to comply with the 2009 law,” Cymbrowitz explained.“Your non-compliance with the original law and your apparent distaste for the current bill, combined with the headline-making problems that occurred in recent elections, gives me serious doubt regarding your agency’s commitment to properly and expeditiously meet its mandates.”
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