The movement to overhaul New York’s patronage-driven election agencies is gaining steam.
One of the state’s most powerful county executives is pushing for a new law to professionalize all of the Empire State’s election agencies — not just the much-maligned New York City Board of Elections.
“It’s not just a New York City problem,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told The Post.
“We had people at Suffolk polling sites waiting in line for four hours during early voting. That’s unconscionable.”
The Democrat — who heads the most populous county outside of the city — said he waited in line for an hour and 40 minutes at a polling site in West Babylon on Election Day.
Like in New York City, the county elections commissioners in the rest of the state are selected by the local Democrat and Republican party leaders — and they have great sway over hiring of full-time employees and seasonal poll workers.
Bellone said the election boards should be placed under the state’s merit-based civil service system like other government agencies so hires aren’t just installed by party bosses as favors.
“It’s long overdue that we reform our election boards. They shouldn’t look like an old Tammany Hall patronage operation,” he said.
“These are good-paying jobs. Any resident should have an opportunity to get a job. That doesn’t exist right now.”
He added, “We want to make sure people have full confidence in the democratic process. If we don’t have confidence in the electoral process, we are undermining democracy.”
Bellone said he will be talking to other county executives, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state lawmakers and Mayor Bill de Blasio about making election reform a top priority in the 2021 legislative session.
Cuomo and de Blasio have both called for changing the city elections board’s administration after voters waited in line for hours during the nine days of early voting.
The mayor himself waited three-and-half hours to vote at his Brooklyn polling site because the city BOE botched the administration by providing an inadequate number of early voting sites, equipment and staffing to process the flow of voters.
Bellone’s call for statewide reform got a receptive ear from the elections committee chairmen of the Democrat-led state Senate and Assembly.
“Everything should be on the table next session,” said Brooklyn state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who chairs the election panel.
“With record turnout and unprecedented attention to our democratic processes, voters expect a world-class democracy and it’ll be important for us to have a robust discussion on what that looks like all across the state.”
Assembly Education Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Nassau) agreed.
“We’re going to take a look and see what we can do to make things better. We want to make changes so it’s not difficult to vote. The better the process, the better the product,” Lavine said.
The NYC BOE struggled managing the elections amid the coronavirus pandemic, particularly handling an unprecedented number of absentee ballots.
Election officials were forced to resend 100,000 absentee ballots to Brooklyn voters after its printing vendor provided the wrong return envelopes.
City election officials also caught flak for printing thousands of mail-in ballots with a typo, which confused voters who believed they were sent ballots for military service members.
During the June primary, the agency disqualified more than 80,000 absentee ballots, nixing many of them for technical reasons that were often the BOE’s own fault.
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