The state has joined the lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections for disenfranchising Brooklyn voters ahead of the contentious 2016 presidential primary. The board axed more than 200,000 voters from its rolls, including more than 117,000 in Brooklyn — many of whom should not have been scrubbed — in a clear violation of the law, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“The right to vote is sacred, protecting all other rights. Yet the NYC Board of Elections’ practices were directly responsible for disenfranchising over 200,000 voters — violating federal and state laws, and undermining New Yorkers’ trust in the institutions meant to protect their rights,” said Schneiderman.
Good-government group Common Cause launched the suit in November, and the Department of Justice got on board on Jan. 12.
The city criticized the Board of Elections for not properly maintaining voters rolls in 2013, and the board launched a massive purge known as the “Brooklyn Project” to cut more than 117,000 voters simply because they had not cast a ballot since 2008, according to complainants. The board’s higher-ups, including executive director Michael Ryan and borough commissioner Dr. John Flateau, were aware of what was happening but did nothing to stop it, the suit also alleges.
But Schneiderman says the problems pre-date the so-called “Brooklyn Project” and go far beyond the borough.
The Board of Elections removed 100,000 voters from rolls city-wide between 2014 and 2015, because it believed they had moved out of the five boroughs — but it only gave them two weeks’ notice, rather than the four years it was supposed to, the suit states.
Some board workers tried to raise the alarm.
“Are we changing the law?” one worker wrote in an e-mail obtained by state investigators.
The writer later acknowledged that hastily clearing rolls of ineligible voters would inevitably disenfranchise legitimate voters.
“A small percentage moved within the city and will find they were purged when they go to send in an address change — this whole process is a big mess,” the e-mail states.
The city also launched its own investigation into the Board of Elections and suspended Democratic chief clerk Betty Ann Canizio and her Republican counterpart Diane Haslett-Rudiano for the duration. The Board of Elections cannot comment on pending litigation, according to a spokeswoman, who did confirm that Canizio and Haslett-Rudiano remain suspended.
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