Common Cause/NY Releases White Paper on Reforming NY's Local and State Board of Elections

Group advocates for a inclusive, deliberate process that brings all stakeholders to the table

NEW YORK, NY (02/23/2021) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause/NY released a white paper recommending a working group to reform the administration of elections in New York State. Various proposals have been bandied around, but the issue deserves serious study for lasting, meaningful reform. The white paper details the elections systems in other states as a starting point, including California, Texas and Illinois.

Local BOEs across the state have come under renewed scrutiny in response to the pandemic. While most boards rose to the challenge, scaling up an absentee voting program, adapting to new public health guidelines, dealing with increased turnout and other stressors, there were also persistent issues. In Congressional District 24, for example, the incumbent and his challenger spent months in court fighting over tossed out ballots.

Right now, in New York our State Election commissioners are appointed by political parties and approved by the Governor. Some states, like Texas, appoint a Secretary of State to oversee election administration, while others like California, elect a secretary of state. The plethora of options means New York has choices when considering the how of fixing the Boards of Elections in New York. This will require time and research to do it correctly. That's why Common Cause/NY recommends:

  • On the process of reforming election administration
    • A working group, made up of election administrators, voters, advocates and others with relevant expertise, be established to assist lawmakers in drafting changes in both the structure and details of election administration.
    • New York lawmakers host a series of public hearings and allow for public comment throughout the entire process.
    • Patience. The issues are sprawling and complex, expediency must not trump the deliberative process.
  • On the substance of election administration
    • A top to bottom review of every aspect of election administration
    • An honest conversation about the future of bipartisan election administration
    • A roadmap to a professionalized staff
    • And, a robust accountability and oversight structure to ensure Boards function like every other state and local agency.

Read the full report here.