What New York City’s Board of Elections should be doing about voter fraud

a katz/Shutterstock

What New York City’s Board of Elections should be doing about voter fraud

What New York City’s Board of Elections should be doing about voter fraud
October 25, 2016

Think before you speak might be the moral of this story. On Tuesday, October 11, the New York Post published comments from Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin that openly expressed bigoted, Islamophobic and xenophobic views – suggesting there is rampant voter fraud in communities of color. Recorded by a hidden camera for the conservative site Project Veritas, Schulkin also said that Muslims “cover their faces” with burqas to shield their identity when voting, and that New York City’s municipal ID program lacks vetting capabilities and is used for fraud.

The New York City Board of Elections should be ashamed of itself for letting his comments go unaddressed by the full board and not disproving his claims of widespread voter fraud. How can the Board of Elections serve New York City and our diverse communities efficiently when one of its own commissioners is allowed to perpetuate racism and myths?

Commissioner Schulkin’s fictional statements about New York City’s IDNYC program and suggestions of voter fraud, which he now disavows, are shockingly irresponsible. We count on the Board of Elections to do its job, focusing on making election processes in New York City fair, accessible and free of bias. In a city of 8 million people, where over 37 percent are foreign-born, the Board of Elections’ duty is to ensure that poll workers are appropriately trained to serve diverse communities and that language access is provided, as well as expanded, at poll sites. The Board says it has made changes to its poll worker training, but hasn’t released any of that information publicly.

Sadly, this is not the first unnecessary controversy created by the Board of Elections this election year. On April 19, we saw more than 100,000 voters purged from voter rolls across the city during New York’s primary elections. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the enactment of voter reforms to fix issues that are disempowering New Yorkers. Upon hearing of Schulkin’s comments, de Blasio has also called for his resignation.

Commissioner Schulkin’s claim that anyone can show up at a polling site and vote is categorically false. When registering to vote for the first time, individuals have to show an appropriate form of identification, as required by New York state law. His claim that there should be stronger voter ID laws comes out of right-wing ideologies designed to disenfranchise voters, particularly those who are low-income, from communities of color or are New American. An efficient and carefully designed system, built around electronic poll books, would ensure that those who register to vote remain in the system, minimizing voter purges and mass confusion and easily maintaining voter integrity.

As for the extremely successful New York City municipal ID program, known as IDNYC – no, it is not used for voter fraud. IDNYC was created as an accessible and secure document that enables New York residents, regardless of immigration status, to access services, enter city buildings, including schools, and provide proof of identification when interacting with police. It is also an accepted form of identification for opening bank accounts at select financial institutions. In the last two years since its inception, more than 900,000 cards have been issued, creating a culture of safety and security, where everyone can identify themselves and access critical institutions.

IDNYC cannot be used for the purposes of voting and is not an approved form of identification for elections under state law; well-trained poll workers facilitated by the Board of Elections should know this. An applicant has to provide documents proving his or her identity and proof of city residency, again disputing Schulkin’s assertion that they are not vetted.

This national election is already full of unfounded accusations and innuendo that voter fraud will result in a rigged outcome. The city and the Board of Elections should double their efforts to ensure that New Yorkers who can vote are supported in doing so. Ensuring that poll workers are fully trained and that language access is available for our city’s diverse residents will help avoid major obstacles that result in voter disenfranchisement.

With three weeks before the presidential election, this is what the city’s administration and the Board of Elections needs to work on and take very seriously. An even better moral to the story is to never let false claims of racism and fraud go unchallenged, because we need to encourage all eligible voters to come to the polls and do their civic duty.

Steven Choi is the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. Susan Lerner is the executive director of Common Cause New York. Dick Dadey is the executive director of Citizens Union.

Placeholder blue outline avatar
Steven Choi
is the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Placeholder blue outline avatar
Susan Lerner
Placeholder blue outline avatar
Dick Dadey
Topic Tags: