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Amid Massive Surge in Early Voting, Cuomo Blasts City Elections Agency
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Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses the press
Gov. Cuomo speaks to reports on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
Credit: Dan Clark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he thought the New York City Board of Elections “did a terrible job” implementing early voting this year after polling sites in the five boroughs were flooded for hours over the weekend due to a surge in demand.

Lines for early voting stretched for blocks in some areas of the city, and areas outside the five boroughs also experienced a backlog of voters when early voting started over the weekend.

According to the latest data collected by the state, 422,166 people voted early over the weekend, with 193,915 of those voters in New York City alone. Those numbers topped results from last year, when only about 250,000 people voted early over the entire election.

It’s the second year New York has offered early voting for its residents, and the state Legislature made some tweaks in the interim to offer more access to polling sites before the election. This year isn’t comparable, given an expected uptick during a presidential election year.

But when asked if the state could do anything to help the New York City Board of Elections in future elections, Cuomo said changes should happen at the city level, not the state.

“I think the Board of Elections in New York City did a terrible job. Terrible,” Cuomo said. “And it’s not the first time, and I think I would be open to an entire redesign of the entire New York City Board of Election system.”

“I would be open to whatever the city proposes to just redesign from the ground up the New York City Board of Elections, period.”

The New York City Board of Elections manages the state’s largest elections system, controlling how voters participate in each of the five boroughs. Outside New York City, that’s handled by each county board of elections individually.

Some Democrats have called for additional early voting polling sites in the five boroughs to ease congestion. New York City has 88 designated polling sites for early voting, which some have said isn’t enough to accommodate the surge in demand.

Operating more early voting sites would cost money, which both the city and state are short on. State Budget Director Robert Mujica said the state gave the city an additional $9 million for early voting this year, but that the challenges are more systemic than financial.

“Every election, primary, general, New York City Board of Elections has different excuses for their management failures,” Mujica said.

Outside New York City, several municipalities also reported long lines for early voting. In Albany, where more than 7,000 people voted early over the weekend, there were lines at the county board of elections early voting site both Saturday and Sunday, for example.

According to data from the state, there appeared to be the most demand for early voting, outside New York City, in Schenectady, Yates, and Cayuga County, each of which reported more than 4% total voter turnout over the weekend.

Early voting is open in New York until Nov. 1, after which the only way to vote in person will be to visit a polling place on Election Day. The last day to have an absentee ballot postmarked is Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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