ELECTIONS: Missing pieces to major objectives
Not all of the election reform bills passed recently in the state Senate are bad bills.
But Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, is right to point out a major flaw — no funding to carry out the state’s goals. Senators recently passed a package of legislation that includes a pay increase for election inspectors to $300 and coordinators to $350 in New York City; prohibiting conflicts of interest among board of elections employees; requiring mandatory training curriculum for poll workers; establishing minimum staffing levels for local board of elections; requiring election commissioners to meet certain qualification; making commissioners full-time employees of the board; and creating a way to remove an election commissioner.
The impetus for some of the bills was a botched 2020 House of Representatives election between Rep. Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi that was officially undecided for roughly four months. A state judge ruled Tenney won the race by 109 votes and ordered the results to be certified. The legal battle included a judicial ruling on 1,100 affidavit ballots that were challenged and led to criticisms by the judge overseeing the case of county elections boards in the House district for a series of issues that led to confusion over whether some contested ballots were officially thrown out or not.
Some change is necessary. Elections officials involved in the race between Brindisi and Tenney were inconsistent, confused and ill-prepared to handle a difficult race during an election process made more difficult by quickly written pandemic voting rules. It makes sense to have more training and clearer expectations for local elections officials.
But if the state isn’t going to back the new training and staffing rules with increased funding to local boards of elections, it will be on county taxpayers to foot the bill for new requirements from Albany. The state is being quite generous with its pet economic development and energy projects. It should be as generous to counties that have to spend more to meet the state’s burgeoning elections requirements.