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With early voting a month away, the city’s Board of Elections has not yet formally detailed how it will keep each vote and ballot safe for the historic nine-day stretch.
All local election boards in New York state that plan to keep voting material at remote sites during the early voting period — which begins on Oct. 26 and ends on Nov. 3, two days before Election Day — must submit security plans to the state Board of Elections.
State officials then have two weeks to review the suggested plan. They must approve each plan at least 60 days before the election, according to the early voting law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January.
“I think it’s important that local boards are complying with those state deadlines, especially where they’ve adopted new technology and robust security practices, so folks can trust the system,” said Jarret Berg, co-founder of Vote Early NY, a nonpartisan advocacy group.
Keeping Tabs on the Ballots
For the first time, poll workers will be equipped with so-called poll pads — electronic tablets that they will use as poll books.
As for security, previously during an election, police have been assigned to every poll site for the duration of Election Day. The officers then personally bring the ballots and voting memory sticks to the city Board of Elections’ borough offices after polls close at 9 p.m.
The board has the outlines of a security plan in place for early voting and is working with the NYPD to make sure an officer will be at each of the 61 sites around the clock, officials said. Each night when the polls close an officer will transport the paper ballots to election board borough offices, according to city Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan.
“We can’t leave the voted ballot material at the poll sites overnight. We have to take that and move it,” Ryan said at a commissioner meeting on Tuesday.
Not everything will move each night.
The voting machines and USB memory sticks with voting information will remain sealed in the scanners at each site for the entire early voting period, according to city board spokesperson Valerie Diaz.
But a formal security plan is still being hashed out and has not been submitted to state election officials, as is required by the new law.
“I know that they are very security-conscious, but they need to compile a program, they absolutely need to put that in with the state,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a nonprofit dedicated to good government.
A state Board of Elections spokesperson said the city BOE had not submitted its formal security plan as of Thursday.
More than half of the other counties throughout the state were not obligated to submit security plans because their early voting will take place inside their board offices, the state elections board spokesperson added.
Berg contends that a plain reading of the regulation is that the requirement to submit a security plan applies to every county, New York City’s included, the first time an early voting plan is used.
The city is not alone in blowing past the mandated time frame.
The most populous localities with more complicated early voting programs, like Westchester and Suffolk counties, have missed the deadline by several weeks, Berg noted.
Voters who want to cast their ballots early must go to their designated site, which can be found through the board’s online poll locator.
Turnout is expected to be low for the upcoming election.
Voters in Queens will select a new district attorney, with Melinda Katz viewed as the slam dunk candidate. Several judicial spots throughout the city are also up for grabs.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who grabbed the seat in a crowded special election earlier this year, is also expected to win handedly, and the citywide ballot will include five proposed changes to the City Charter.
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