The confidence in U.S. election is of paramount importance to voters who believe in the sanctity of ‘one voter, one vote.’ However, the non-partisan election watchdog SMART elections has uncovered a reported anomaly in one City Council District in the 2021 Brooklyn Primary.
More ballots than voters. The elections watchdog issued the following notice to voters, as well as its experience of hostility attempting to get to the bottom of the disparity.
“We are issuing this preliminary report because, in our opinion, we are experiencing hostility and obstruction from the New York City and the Brooklyn Board of Elections, as well as some coordinators at Early Voting poll sites,” SMART Elections Executive Director Lulu Friesdat wrote in the report.
“We have discovered discrepancies that raise concerns and deserve further exploration,” the report continued. “These were reported to the coordinators at each poll site and directly to the Board of Elections. The Board of Elections responded by removing our project leader as a poll watcher and changing the information our poll watchers were allowed to view. Now we cannot collect the data necessary for the successful completion of the project.”
“We deeply respect the voters, candidates and poll workers who have committed so much time and effort to the election. They deserve to have confidence in it,” Friesdat added.
“At this point, we cannot assure the public that the results in all these locations are accurate, because the process is not transparent and we have not been allowed to check,” SMART elections continued.
“This lack of cooperation and transparency is unfortunate and unnecessary,” Friesdat added. “We hope that the Board of Elections will examine these issues fully and whole-heartedly commit to a respectful, transparent partnership with those engaged in public oversight.”
SMART elections notes that there is a civil case involving the 45th City Council District.
“We chose the 45th City Council District, partly because there is an ongoing civil court case here alleging corruption and poll workers ‘fraudulently feeding ballots into the scanner.’ We are not making those allegations, or taking a position on them. We are simply aware that allegations are moving forward in the courts, and they indicate that there is some lack of confidence in the process.”
The SMART elections group than stated that it found “698 more scanned ballots than voters who checked in.” The watchdog group explained why this is concerning.
“The number of voters who check in must always be the same or close to the number of ballots scanned. This has nothing to do with affidavit or void ballots. Those are accounted for separately. Each voter who checks in successfully is given one ballot and is supposed to scan it themselves, unless there is a problem with the scanners. So the number of voters who check in is supposed to be close to the number of ballots scanned,” SMART elections said.
“Sometimes voters leave without scanning their ballots – called ‘fleeing voters’. Because of this, the number of ballots scanned can be lower than the number of voters who check in. But the number of ballots scanned is not ever supposed to be more than the number of voters who check in,” it added.
There were a number of explanations for the discrepancy. SMART elections contacted election tech experts who weighed in on the issue.
“Election technology experts we spoke with said that there are programming or software errors that can cause the protective counter to advance when the public counter does not,” the report said. “In some instances the vote might not be counted. They said it can also be from the machine being subjected to a heavy blow or drop earlier, which can cause an invisible internal alignment that will not show up in diagnostics.”
“We found this pattern in at least one other location, but the discrepancies at this location were the largest,” the report added.
Most concerning at all was the election officials’ lack of transparency and hostility towards the non-partisan election watchdog.
“The level of information that we are receiving now has been severely restricted at almost every site,” the election watchdog stated. “We can no longer make the comparisons necessary to conduct the pilot, and verify the accuracy of this part of the count. Our lead poll watcher has been removed and is no longer allowed to collect data.”
“At one location, both the Brooklyn Chief Clerk, who makes over $130,000 a year, and his Deputy came in person to a polling location to block access to one of our poll watchers, who had been working very cooperatively with the coordinators up to that time,” the report added.
It needs to be underscored that election integrity has nothing to do with political ideology. It is fundamental to our country’s functioning as a democratic republic. The citizens have a right to know what happens to their votes once they are cast in government elections. But all of a sudden, it looks like elections officials believe they are unaccountable to voters. Such an unacceptable attitude should draw the scrutiny from voters everywhere, along with their repeated demands for accountability.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.