Follow Up and Explanation of the Nov. 5, 2019 Election Issue

MLP Chair Ilya Schwartzburg confronts the NYC Board of Election on November 12, 2019

In general, we had a pretty successful off-year election. Devin Balkind garnered over 2% of the vote for Public Advocate, a recent milestone, and a fair amount of media coverage for an economical campaign. Devin’s campaign proved that this party is on the upswing.

For many of us enrolled Libertarians, however, our experience on Election Day was troubling. The Board of Elections used for the first time a new e-poll book system where, when you walk up to your electoral district table, instead of looking up your signature in a physical book and signing next to it, you scan a card that was sent to us in the mail or search your name on an iPad, confirm your information on the screen, and sign. Unfortunately for many of us, some iPads indicated a field for party designation and for every enrolled Libertarian, it would indicate enrollment in the Working Families Party instead. Enrollment is a serious issue for us–we have only become an official party so we have (1) many voters re-enrolling to stay active in the now-official party, (2) new voters we are attracting and pushing to enroll Libertarian, and (3) many voters we have to trust the Board of Elections to transfer from “Other (Libertarian)” to simply “Libertarian.” Needless to say, an error involving enrollment causes concern.

I voted around 7:50AM on the way to work. When I encountered the error, the poll workers gave me little comfort, but did give me a registration form to get the issue resolved before we “have to act against Trump.” In morning online conversations, I discovered that others had seen the same error. Soon enough, we amassed certain screenshots (which is technically illegal, but shouldn’t be) and confirmed this was happening throughout the City. I then started a phone and Twitter campaign with the Board of Elections, the Attorney General, and the press. By 1PM, we got confirmation this was an error that did not affect enrollment. By 3PM, we heard that this was some kind of “data mapping issue.”

As you can see in the video above, I continued to press for an explanation. So here is what happened: the NYC Board of Elections contracted with a vendor for the new e-poll book system, but they didn’t have much time to set up the new system, especially when they were more concerned with properly implementing early voting for the first time. So instead of properly coding all the data fields they were sharing with the vendor, they decided to pass over items that were not essential to the general election–this included party designation. Under the old coding they sent to the vendor along with their other data, the abbreviation for Libertarian Party affiliation somehow was coded as Working Families Party as a default. Supposedly, the Board of Elections had told the vendor not to indicate that field, but they neglected to do so. Once the Attorney General made the Board of Elections aware of this error, they disabled the field. The Board of Elections has now acknowledged the error and the confusion it caused. They have promised to prioritize the completion of this coding and have offered that I can preview the e-poll books before the primaries in 2020.

We will keep monitoring this issue.