Long lines and delayed results from mail-in ballots were just some of the problems for Westchester County voters in the June 23 primary election and are big concerns for County and Board of Election (BOE) officials who have been meeting to discuss ways to improve things for November.
The Board of Legislators met with BOE commissioners Wednesday, July 29, in a public meeting. Though residents in accordance with the governor's executive order could not attend, access was provided on a live-streamed video you may view here.
The meeting notice outlined some of the issues with voting.
"The June 23 primaries were conducted under a perfect storm of difficult conditions because of the COVID-19 health crisis and affected the BOE's ability to recruit and train poll workers said the Board of Legislators," it said.
In addition, changes in the availability of traditional polling sites meant that many new locations had to be found. Also, a series of gubernatorial emergency executive orders changed election dates and deadlines multiple times and instituted new absentee balloting procedures, leading to a dramatic increase in the volume of absentee voting.
The County, said the notice, has no authority over how the BOE conducts elections but is working to "gather information, ask questions, and provide recommendations to the BOE."
On July 8, an Election Information Gathering Task Force met with members of the public and received 150 public comments for that meeting. In addition, the County's Budget & Appropriations Committee met July 13 with election professionals and advocates to hear of their experiences and suggestions.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, in a letter published July 15 on the County's website, addressed voting concerns.
“While the Westchester Board of Elections is state-controlled, we are all in this together. I want people to vote, I want them to be engaged – and we are here to help," he wrote.
Latimer released a four-point plan aimed at offering assistance to the state-directed Westchester Board of Elections in advance of Election Day 2020.
The plan, which has already been given to BOE Commissioners Reginald Lafayette and Douglas Colety, includes assistance with additional polling place inspectors, replacement polling sites, additional temporary staff for absentee ballot counting and early voting.
Among the new procedures is utilizing Westchester County employees, who already have Election Day off, as polling place inspectors. Latimer said utilizing these workers, along with also securing new polling sites to keep a reasonable number of locations open while avoiding the use of nursing homes and other high Covid-19 risk areas, is simply streamlining our government workforce and utilizing county connections.
The plan calls for providing resources to the BOE to hire part-time poll workers to count absentee ballots as well as open up early voting locations so that any duly registered Westchester voter can vote at any early voting location site.
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