In New York, postal voters must place their completed postal ballot in a return envelope known as an “oath” envelope that contains the voter’s name, address, and voter ID. The oath envelope is then placed in a second envelope which is returned to the local election officials.
Voters affected by the latest mistake were instead given an oath envelope with the personal details of another voter, raising questions about whether the ballot papers will be counted in the fall elections. The incident comes amid widespread discussion – and frequent misinformation – about the security of postal voting.
Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, a spokeswoman for the board of directors, told CNN the problem had affected 99,477 voters. She accused a third party, Phoenix Graphics, of having been hired to print out the ballot papers and send them to voters in Brooklyn and Queens. CNN has asked the company for a comment.
Michael Ryan, the executive director of the electoral committee, said at a meeting Tuesday afternoon that the city had ordered the seller to re-send new ballots “to ensure there was absolutely no disenfranchisement in the Brooklyn neighborhood.”
The re-sent ballot papers contain an attachment that explains why the voter received the ballot again. Ryan said they will also use traditional and social media to make sure voters are kept informed of what is happening.
“It’s essentially important to build confidence in this process,” Ryan said at the meeting.
“The BOE will do whatever it needs to do administratively, both in pre-communicating with voters on the re-dispatch aspect, and in the background to ensure that all ballots received are properly processed and votes are counted to voters who participated in the process are properly credited, “added Ryan.
Vazquez-Diaz said a total of 520,000 postal ballots were sent across the city, with ballots first being sent on September 18. Until Tuesday, it was unclear whether ballots affected by the bug had been returned.
The city’s election officials were first informed of the misprint on Monday afternoon after several phone calls from concerned voters. The cover mistake also made the rounds on social media as city voters were dismayed by the mix-up.
Anders Kapur, 29, who lives in Brooklyn and usually votes democratically, was shocked to find that he had not properly received another voter’s oath envelope.
“I suppose someone out there has an envelope with my name on it and if they don’t read the ballot as closely as I do, they could vote on my behalf,” he told CNN.
Kapur told CNN that he reached out to the city’s electoral authority as soon as he discovered a problem. They told him they would send him a new ballot, but Kapur fears the mix-up could lead to potential questions of electoral fraud.
Brooklyn-based Barry Petchesky said he would “just soak it up and vote in person, just in case.”
Vazquez-Diaz said the electoral board would release a plan Tuesday afternoon to address the issue.
Mayor Bill de Blasio hit the electoral board for the mistake.
“You have to fix it immediately. It’s appalling. It is so easy to avoid this mistake and it is very easy to fix this mistake,” said Democrat de Blasio on Tuesday.
He asked everyone who received the ballot to call and ask for a new one. De Blasio described the experience as frustrating for voters, saying there was still time 35 days before the election to get a correct ballot.
While misprinted ballots are not uncommon, with the anticipated spike in mail-in votes this year, the smallest mistakes could affect hundreds if not thousands of voters.
David Becker, founder of the non-partisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, told CNN that while there are “errors” in postal voting, the ramifications this fall could have far-reaching consequences, not just in terms of the potential to attract voters Confusion, but give President Donald Trump and critics more examples to cast doubt on the postal vote.
“We have candidates and foreign opponents who are actively trying to use every little problem to reduce voter confidence in the system and to delegitimize this election. Most election officials across the country are on high alert to ensure that the problems do not arise. ” It doesn’t happen – and it’s actually pretty impressive considering how many new options there are for mail-in voting and that there aren’t any other issues, “Becker said.
Becker noted that issues like the typographical error in New York are more likely to lead to electoral disenfranchisement problems than to election fraud within the voting system via email. Becker said there are several safeguards within the voting process that prevent one voter from voting on someone else’s ballot.
A similar pressure problem affected over 6,100 voters in a northwest Michigan county. Jason Vanderstelt, Newaygo County Administrator, stated in a letter Monday that postal ballot papers that were sent out skipped a major judicial race and resulted in the printing of new ballots. Vanderstelt said he was first informed of the problem over the weekend, as new ballots would arrive on Thursday.
“With the arrival of these new ballots, our staff will work diligently to issue new ballots for absent voters to all voters who have already received a ballot,” says Vanderstelt’s letter.
Vanderstelt noted in his letter that there are procedures in place in the county to ensure that only one ballot is counted for each voter.
“The fact that all these errors are detected and corrected immediately should give people confidence in the integrity of our system,” said Becker.