Most voters probably do not think about who is running the elections they are casting ballots in, but increasingly state lawmakers in New York are scrutinizing the local officials who oversee them.
Next week, the state Senate will be turning its attention to addressing ways of reforming how elections are run in New York — a way of kicking the tires of democracy.
The hearing is set for next Wednesday, Aug. 4 in Syracuse as the issue of election infrastructure has been called into question and nationalized in a heated partisan environment.
Former President Donald Trump has falsely claimed fraud in the 2020 election, won by President Joe Biden. States across the country are considering voting law changes Democrats have said are designed to make it harder to vote; Republicans insist the measures are meant to bolster integrity in elections.
"While the nation is transfixed with what's happening in other states as it pertains to voting, it's an opportunity for New York to lead," said Senate Election Committee Chairman Zellnor Myrie.
The Brooklyn lawmaker next week is heading to Syracuse for a hearing on local election reform, addressing how elections are run on the local level by county boards of election.
New York has faced different challenges than what is playing out on the national level. The solidly blue state in recent years has sought to expand access to the ballot through early voting and, through a constitutional amendment, could allow for no-fault absentee ballot if approved this November in a referendum.
But elections in New York are run by both major parties, with Republican and Democratic elected officials often appointing people they have direct ties to overseeing elections.
The hearings are being held after the New York City Board of Elections this month released incorrect vote totals for the closely watched Democratic mayoral primary, and also after the outcome of the narrow election between Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi took weeks to determine.
"There is an issue and it's not just in New York City, it's throughout the state and it requires a statewide approach," Myrie said. "It's why I'm looking forward to hearing from voters in the next couple of weeks."
Ranked-choice voting in New York City this year may not have directly led to the initial tallying issues in mayoral primary, but some officials have raised concerns the method could make it harder for working class voters to fully participate. Nevertheless, Myrie pointed to outcomes for ranked-choice voting: The likelihood of New York City's second Black mayor and a diverse slate of incoming members for the New York City Council.
More data collection is going to be needed to determine how many ballots were "wasted" based on the number of rankings voters made.
"We have to do a better job of convincing people that it's important for them to be engaged and that their vote matters, their participation matters," Myrie said.
Myrie wants to take what he's learned from the hearings and turn the information into legislation.
"That's been the tradition of the Senate Democrats," he said. "My hope is we will continue that tradition and many of the things we put forward will come from these hearings."