Board of Election Professionalization Package Passes Senate
The New York State Senate passed legislation to reform local boards of elections in New York. The legislative package includes provisions to restructure the New York City Board of Elections; update requirements for holding public hearings before BOE appointments; update the qualifications of a commissioner to be appointed; prohibit commissioners and deputies from holding public office; prohibit conflict of interests; require commissioners to be full-time employees; remove a commissioner under certain circumstances; set minimum staffing levels; increase the compensation of election inspectors; split shifts for election inspectors or poll workers; mandate annual training for election commissioners and develop and provide county training materials for a train the trainer poll worker program.
“Our local boards of elections play an essential role in upholding democracy and safeguarding New Yorkers’ right to vote,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “This package of legislation will enact much-needed, common-sense reforms that will modernize the operations of local boards of elections across the state with an eye to improving New Yorkers’ voting experience. These reforms will markedly upgrade the administration of elections and bolster public confidence in the democratic process. I commend Election Chair Senator Zellnor Myrie and the bill sponsors for their work on this critical issue.”
Bill sponsor and Chair of the Committee on Elections, Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “As Elections Committee Chair, I was proud to lead hearings across the state in 2021 where we learned first-hand about the issues facing New York voters. We issued a landmark report calling for major changes to the way New York conducts its elections, from how poll workers are trained to how commissioners are appointed and removed. I'm grateful to my Senate Majority colleagues for prioritizing these reforms and look forward to seeing them signed into law.”
Following the June 2021 primary elections, the Senate conducted a series of five (5) public hearings seeking testimony from voters, election administrators, poll workers, voting rights advocates, and good government groups. Based upon that testimony, the Senate Election Committee released a report outlining policy recommendations to reform the operations of local boards of elections, boost voter participation, and enact election efficiencies. The policy recommendations in the report inform the bills in this legislation package. Every year since 2019, the Senate has made expanding access to the ballot box and reforming our state’s election process the first order of business in the legislative session. This action includes the historic John R. Lewis New York Voting Rights Act, a nation-leading law that strengthens voter protections and prohibits suppressive voter practices.
The Legislation Includes Read More
Restructuring of the New York City Board of Elections: S.619, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger restructures the exercise of powers and duties of the New York City Board of Elections and its executive management. The bill reduces the NYCBOE size from 10 to 2 commissioners and concentrates authority in an Executive Director selected after a nationwide search. The bill also requires that staff hired and promoted by the NYCBOE be qualified to carry out their duties.
Minimum Requirements for Commissioners Qualifications: S.645, sponsored by Senator John Mannion requires a commissioner to meet certain qualifications before their appointment, including demonstrated experience in election administration, or other administration or operations experience in the public, non-profit or private sectors.
Prohibiting Commissioners from Holding Public Office: S.614, sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie prohibits election commissioners and deputy commissioners from holding a publicly elected office or from being the respective chair of the county Democratic or Republican committees.
Prohibiting Conflicts of Interest: S.612, sponsored by Senator Shelley Mayer, prohibits financial and professional conflicts of interest among board of elections employees caused by outside income relating to the administration of elections and supervision of elections in which they are candidates.
Make Commissioners Full-Time Employees: S.611, sponsored by Senator Shelley Mayer, makes commissioners full-time employees of the Board of Elections.
Mandatory Training for Commissioners: S.617, sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie, requires Election Commissioners and key staff at Boards of Elections to take annual training on election administration.
Removal of Commissioners: S.585, sponsored by Senator Rachel May, allows for the New York State Board of Elections to remove an election commissioner. Removal on the grounds of incompetence, misconduct, or other good cause will be provided prior to any action and not before the election commissioner is given a written copy of the alleged charges and an opportunity to present a defense.
Full-Time Employee Minimums: S.644, sponsored by Senator John W. Mannion, requires every board of elections to employ a minimum of four full-time employees in addition to the appointed commissioners and two additional employees for every twenty thousand active registered voters beyond forty thousand active registered voters.
Pay Raise for Poll Workers: S.136, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger increases the compensation of election inspectors statewide to no less than $300, and election coordinators in New York City to no less than $350. The bill also amends the election law to increase the pay of election inspectors and poll clerks for required training to $50 for each meeting.
Splitting Shifts Among Inspectors and Clerks: S.609, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, allows for election inspectors and poll clerks to work half-day or 8-hour shifts on Election Day with adjusted compensation to reflect reduced work hours worked.
Mandatory Curriculum for Certified Poll Worker Training: S.587, sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie ensures proper training for poll workers by requiring a mandatory curriculum for certified poll worker training and “train the trainer” programs.
Exempting Poll Workers’ Earnings from Federal Adjusted Gross Income: S.613A, sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie subtracts from the federal adjusted gross income any compensation earned by election workers while on election duty, from being included in the calculation of the number of benefits under public assistance programs.
Member/Sponsor Support Read More
Bill sponsor, Senator Brad Hoylman said, “It’s time that New York catches up with the 23 other states across the country that make it easier to submit absentee ballots through the use of drop boxes. This is important because in the June 2020 primaries, at least one in five absentee ballots from New York City were invalidated relating to the mail-in process. Our bill (S610) would permit drop boxes where voters can easily and conveniently return their absentee ballots and help ensure every vote is counted. I’m grateful to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for continuing to prioritize legislation that protects our democracy.”
Bill sponsor, Senator Robert Jackson said, “As a priority of the Senate Majority, we start the legislative session for the new year determined to pass legislation that makes voting easier and safeguards the rights of all New Yorkers. This voting rights package includes a bill I sponsored that protects our democracy by preventing manipulation of the legal system when frivolous lawsuits are filed to overturn Election Law. This package of bills is a crucial step toward strengthening our democracy and ensuring that every vote counts in our state. By supporting this package, we are taking meaningful action to protect the integrity of our elections. I look forward to these bills passing and becoming law.”
Bill sponsor, Senator Rachel May said, “Our democracy works best when everyone participates, and it is our job as Legislators to make that participation as easy as possible. This includes giving New Yorkers easier access to the ballot box, and my portable polling locations bill will do just that. It allows counties to remove barriers to early voting by bringing the polling places right to residents’ neighborhoods. The Democratic majority has made improving voting rights a top priority, and I look forward to continuing our effort by passing this important voting reform package.”
Advocate Support Read More
Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY said, “The Senate Democrats continue to prioritize democracy with a Day One package of important reforms. Common Cause/NY is particularly pleased to see legislation allowing New Yorkers to more easily vote either absentee or in-person depending on their preferences, by establishing ballot drop-boxes and the right to provide snacks for those waiting in line. Senate Democrats have consistently advanced critical voter access laws, and we urge the Assembly and Governor to do the same.”
Perry Grossman, Director of the Voting Rights Project at the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “Continued improvement to our state’s democracy is contingent on policymakers, scholars, and the public having easy, equitable access to voting and election data. Serving as a critical companion to the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York— the strongest and most comprehensive state law of its kind — the New York Voting and Elections Database and Institute will ensure that we can make evidence-based decisions that bolster New Yorkers’ access to the ballot box.”
L. Joy Williams, President of Brooklyn NAACP and Legislative Director for the NAACP New York State Conference of Branches said, “While the right to vote is under siege in many states across the country, we applaud the Senate for continuing to make voting rights a priority in New York State. We look forward to the continued partnership and advocacy to get these bills passed and signed into law.”
Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of New York State said, “The League of Women Voters of New York State applauds the Senate for continuing its efforts to improve election administration. In recent years, New York has made huge strides forward to improve equity and access to the polls, but we still have a long way to go. We are pleased to see a number of voting rights bills passed including the database to support the New York Voting Rights Act and bills that will increase access to the polls and prohibit voter suppression. The League also strongly supports board of election reforms that would ensure consistent training for all poll workers and improve professionalism and transparency. We urge the Assembly to take similar action to protect voters and the democratic process.”
Jarret Berg, Co-Founder and Voting Rights Counsel at Vote Early New York said, "With American democracy facing challenges both at home and abroad, New Yorkers are incredibly fortunate to have State Senate leadership that is focused on protecting and advancing our voting rights. We applaud the Senate Majority for once again putting fundamental rights first--by prioritizing this critical package of nearly twenty pro-civic election reform measures--and look forward to working with lawmakers in both chambers to enact modern voting policies that improve the fairness and quality of our elections."
Derek Perkinson, Crisis Director and NYS Field Director for National Action Network said, “History will judge what we do to protect voting rights. We are calling on our state’s leaders to shine during dark times and strengthen our voting rights and our democracy by passing this package of voting rights and election reform bills. The right to vote is our most fundamental right and is the right upon which all our other rights rest. We all stand upon the shoulders of people who died to achieve and protect this precious right. We must build upon the John R. Lewis NY Voting Rights Act. All voters should be able to cast their ballot freely and safely. This package will ensure election deniers and election cheaters cannot and will not ever prosper in the great state of New York.”
Joanna Zdanys, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said, “This legislative package is a vital step forward for New York’s democracy. It will bring proven best practices from around the country to improve the professionalism, transparency, and voter service of New York’s boards of elections. We are also pleased to see the Senate build on the promise of the historic John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York by passing additional pro-voter reforms, including establishing the New York voting and elections database and allowing voters braving long lines to receive food and drink. We applaud the Senate for passing this package and commend Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Elections Chair Zellnor Myrie, and the bills’ sponsors for their leadership in the effort to help New York become the inclusive democracy it can and should be.”
Christina Harvey, Executive Director for Stand Up America said, “Last year, New York made history by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Our state Senate is poised to make even more progress this week by passing legislation to remove barriers to voting and keep our elections running smoothly for the people of New York. Our democracy is stronger when everyone can participate in the electoral process and those responsible for administering our elections have the resources and structures they need to set them up for success. Stand Up America applauds Senate leaders for taking up these critical voting rights and election reforms, and calls on the Assembly to follow their lead and prioritize this important legislative package to ensure every New Yorker has a voice.”