Better training for elections workers, allowing the distribution of snacks for voters waiting in line and blocking elections commissioners from holding elected office are among the changes Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate are seeking to the administration of elections in New York state.
And key to the package of measures is a sweeping plan to overhaul the New York City Board of Elections by reducing its size and giving more power to an executive director chosen through a nationwide search.
The measures, approved in the state Senate on Tuesday, are meant to make improvements to local boards of election in New York that have, at times, been criticized as patronage mills for local officials. New York lawmakers in recent years have sought changes to election administration, but have to run into institutional headwinds opposed to the changes.
“The Senate Democratic Majority has taken great steps to fix our antiquated electoral system to make it fairer and more accessible," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "We are building on that progress today through needed Board of Elections reforms that will enhance how they function across the entire state. By improving their ability to perform elections, we better the process for everyone and help make New York a beacon for democracy."
Many of the measures are meant to address quality control at local elections administration.
The package of measures includes having the statewide Board of Elections develop a mandatory training plan for election commissioners and key staff at local boards. Elections commissioners would also be barred from holding elected office. Pay raises would also be approved for elections inspectors from $25 to $50.
Commissioners would be full-time board workers and state elections would also be required to develop poll worker training programs.
The measures being pushed are the result of a statewide review of elections administration in New York by lawmakers.
“Last year, the Elections Committee held statewide hearings to listen to voters, poll workers, elections administrators and advocates," said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie. "Our report last fall detailed the concerns many New Yorkers shared about how our elections are run and what a better system might look like. I'm grateful to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my Senate colleagues for advancing this meaningful package of legislation that will improve our system of election administration at a time when democracy is under attack across this nation.”