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October 17, 2008

DiNapoli Highlights Steps to Help
County Boards Prepare for Election

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today released a review of 18 County Boards of Elections that found most were in compliance with state election law, but needed to do more to ensure they are adequately staffed for Election Day on November 4.

“Across the nation, states are expecting a huge voter turnout,” DiNapoli said. “We must do everything we can to make sure that New York is ready and that every voter has the chance to cast their vote without incident. Our review found that New York’s County Boards of Election have adhered to state election law and are nearly ready. But we did identify potential staffing shortages that must be addressed now.”

In New York, there are 58 Boards of Elections — one for each county and one for the five boroughs of New York City. Each board outside of New York City consists of two commissioners representing each of the county’s two major political parties. The City of New York Board consists of 10 commissioners, two from each borough. Boards manage election operations for primary and general elections, for school board, fire district and village elections, and for special elections. Boards also register voters.

DiNapoli’s auditors reviewed 18 boards from September 22 to October 6 to determine if they were in compliance with state election law. The counties were selected based on population and geography to ensure a diverse sampling of counties. Because of time limitations, auditors did not examine the boards’ processing of new voter registrations.

Auditors found that boards were generally in compliance with the state election law, but need to do more to ensure adequate staffing on Election Day and improve recordkeeping. The findings include:

  • Staffing: State law requires that all required staff be appointed by July 15. Auditors found that nine of 18 counties did not have the required number of election staff. However, six boards had appointed and trained election coordinators to provide additional staffing and direction for voters at some of the busier polling sites.
  • Training Machine Technicians: Boards must provide training on the preparation, use and repair of voting machines to technicians. While all 18 boards indicated their technicians were trained and qualified, auditors could only verify that technicians had the necessary training in half of the counties examined.
  • Training Other Election Staff: Boards are required to provide instruction to election inspectors, poll clerks and election coordinators, as well as administer an examination. Auditors found that eight of the 18 counties had not offered all the required training, but did have training scheduled in October.
  • Voting Machines: Auditors found that boards did not have adequate documentation showing that the required testing was performed annually as required by state law. Two of the 16 counties did not perform regular testing, and only four of the 14 counties that said they performed tests had documentation that the tests had occurred. Auditors also found that 10 of the 16 counties did not maintain repair records. Auditors found that all 18 counties had contingency plans if voting machines malfunctioned.
  • Handicapped Accessibility: Boards are required to ensure that polling sites are accessible to voters who have disabilities. All 18 counties have taken steps to ensure their sites are accessible. Of the approximately 3,340 polling places within the 18 counties examined, only four are not handicapped-accessible and those sites had waivers exempting them from this requirement.
  • Voter Complaints: Auditors found that each board responded to complaints as they occurred. Two counties did not keep adequate records indicating how problems were resolved.

Auditors recommended the 18 boards reviewed should:

  • Ensure that sufficient staff is appointed and trained prior to the election;
  • Document all training programs provided to election employees and ensure workers have passed a test to demonstrate they are prepared for the election;
  • Maintain documentation that each voting machine has been tested and repaired to ensure all voting machines are ready for the election; and
  • Maintain documentation of complaints received and how they were addressed.

DiNapoli urged all boards statewide to take steps to ensure an efficient election process. He suggested that boards have an adequate supply of paper ballots at polling sites, reserve staff available to fill in for staff absences or assist at crowded polling sites, and ensure that all election inspectors are instructed on the proper use of paper ballots so that all eligible New Yorkers can vote.

All the board commissioners interviewed believe they will be prepared for the 2008 election and expect to continue preparations up until Election Day.

Click here for a list of the counties examined.

Click here for a copy of the review.


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