With five weeks left until the presidential election, the initiative to vote by mail is well underway. But that hit a roadblock this week, when numerous New Yorkers reportedly received absentee ballots only to discover that their return envelopes listed the wrong names and addresses.
On Monday, Twitter lit up with residents from neighborhoods all around Brooklyn reporting the issue. People complained of getting their ballot with the return envelope of a nearby neighbor, or even of another resident in their own home. Others’ absentee ballots were so mismatched that they were unsure where to even begin. Normally, when voting by mail – via absentee ballot or in a state with established mail-in voting – the voter inserts their completed ballot into the envelope and signs the outside. If the names and addresses do not match, the ballot is voided, reports the Washington Post. And this immediately caused concern among local Brooklynites.
Crystal Hudson, a candidate for New York City Council, relayed her experience on Twitter after a neighbor contacted her saying she had received Hudson’s return envelope instead of her own. After opening all of her family’s absentee ballots, Hudson found that none of them had the correct return envelope. “So let’s recap – my neighbor’s wife has my absentee ballot; he has his wife’s ballot; and his is missing,” she tweeted.
So let’s recap—my neighbor’s wife has my absentee ballot; he has his wife’s ballot; and his is missing, along with @ahujie’s. These neighbors also shared that they are immigrants & are very excited to vote in their first presidential election as citizens. 🥺
What to do next? 3/
— Crystal Hudson (@crystalrhudson) September 28, 2020
So far, the Board of Elections does not know how many New Yorkers have been affected, but early indications suggest that the error is widespread. What the organization does know is that more than 140,000 absentee ballots have gone out in Brooklyn in total. It also has not received any reports about misprinted ballot envelopes in any other boroughs across the city.
But mismatched ballots and envelopes weren’t the only printing error spotted. According to NYC Votes, a voter education organization, some residents received ballots labeled “Official Absentee Military Ballot,” even though they are not in the military. This was blamed on a typo: A missing slash should have been between the words “absentee” and “military” denoting that it was applicable to both. NYC Votes assured anyone who received a ballot with this error that their vote would still be valid.
The executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, Michael Ryan, blamed the issue on a vendor with a contract to print and mail absentee ballots for voters in Brooklyn and Queens. “We are determining how many voters have been affected but we can assure that the vendor will address this problem in future mailings, and make sure people who received erroneous envelopes receive new ones,” Ryan told New York’s News 4. Ryan assured voters that they would all arrive in advance of the election on November 3.
Still, this error has much larger implications because, should the BOE not remedy the problem in time, an untold number of voters in Brooklyn could have their ballots voided or be unable to cast one at all. Voters who received misprinted ballots can still vote in person during early voting or on Election Day; however, this may not be a viable option to everyone affected. After members of the GOP relentlessly criticized the validity and security of mail-in voting, this latest mass error will likely only add to their argument. Already, Trump has been retweeting articles and tweets about the issue along with a Project Veritas video alleging election fraud.
“Look, this is a stupid error, but there is time to get it fixed,” Susan Lerner, head of the voting rights group Common Cause New York, told Gothamist. “There is time to get it fixed and that’s what people need to know. If you check your envelope and it’s the wrong name, call the Board immediately.”
This is all the more reason, New York resident or not, to make sure that your ballot information is correct and you have everything you need well before the deadline to cast your vote. Attacks on mail-in voting are not going to stop, Trump will continue his attempts to invalidate the process and slow it through further defunding of the United States Postal Service, and states that do not normally hold mass mail-in voting are trying to keep up. Check your ballots, check your envelopes, keep track of the deadlines for voting, and vote early if you can. Whatever you do, make sure that nothing stands in the way of your vote being counted.
The Board of Elections is asking every New Yorker who received a mismatched ballot and return envelope to contact them via Twitter, email, or by phone at 1-866-868-3692.
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