In the June 2020 New Rochelle School Election, there was no consistent process for accepting and voiding ballots or documenting decisions to void ballots or securing voiding ballots.
“There was an air of ignorance and apathy as votes were counted,” Leone said. “The District was not prepared, the process was unprofessional and disorganized.”
As noted previously, as part of our investigation into voting irregularities in the June 2020 school election in New Rochelle we found 297 ballots that were voided incorrectly.
As best as we can tell, election inspectors would start the process by opening the return envelopes and assessing the contents.
A valid ballot would be properly sealed inside an oath envelope with the voter’s name and address on the front and their signature on the back so that was checked first.
If an election inspector opened a return envelope that did not contain a sealed oath envelope (top) and/or an oath envelope with no name and address on the front (middle) and/or no signature on the back (bottom), the oath envelope would then be considered void.
If the oath envelope was deemed to be in order the voter’s name would be looked up in the register. If the voter’s name was found, the signature on the oath envelope would be compared to the exemplar in the register.
If the signature matched, the oath envelope would be deemed “accepted”, opened and the ballot removed from the oath envelope. The accepted ballots were then separated from their oath envelopes, mixed in with other ballots ostensibly to keep secret the identity of the voter who cast a particular ballot (as we will see, this attempt at ballot secrecy failed utterly), then the votes on the accepted ballots were tabulated.
If the Election Inspector could not find a name in the register that matched the oath envelope the ballot was voided.
In the case of voter Myriam Edwards from Election District 7, her ballot was marked “void/not in poll roster” because her name was not in the ED 7 register.
However, because Election Inspectors did not cross-check Myriam Edwards against the ED 7 voter registration list, they failed to realize not only is she a registered voter but they missed what should have been a “red flag”, that there is a discrepancy between the voters listed in the register and the registered voter list.
Such a discrepancy should never happen because the register is supposed to be generated from the registered voter list. That this was not the case for even a single voter brings into question the use of the register to verify any voter. There were dozens of cases like Myriam Edwards.
This failure is to say nothing of cross-checking a voter by name, hyphenated name, or address against all 48,000+ voters in the districtwide voter registration list and not just the list for the one ED. There were dozens of cases where ballots were voided simply because a valid ballot was delivered to the wrong ED.
The most common issues resulting in a voided ballot include: (1) unable to find the name on the oath envelope in the signature book for that Election District; (2) having found the name in the signature book for that Election District, the addresses did not match; (3) having found the name in the signature book for that Election District, the signatures did not match; (4) the person attempted to vote twice.
This process resulted in many wrongly voided ballots for three reasons: (1) the names in the signature book for that Election District did not include all of the names of registered voters for that Election District and no effort was made to cross-check names against the list of registered voters for that Election District provided in hard copies to each Election Chairperson. It is difficult to understand why a signature book for a particular Election District would not have all of the names of registered voters for that Election District; (2) names not found in a signature book for a particular Election District were not cross-checked against all of the other EDs; (3) names not found in a signature book for a particular Election District were not cross-checked against an electronic database where searching for a name might have located a hyphenated version of that name; (4) names not found in a signature book for a particular Election District were not cross-checked against an electronic database where searching for an address might have located a typo in the name or a married or maiden name.
The School District did not maintain records of who made the decision to void ballots or the basis for the decision. Although no voided ballots were properly sealed and documented, some ballots had a post-it note affixed to a return envelope or oath envelope with a brief note stating “no signature” or “signature did not match”. There was no consistent method of documenting why a ballot was disqualified.
Perhaps most troubling is the lack of due process. A faceless, nameless person scribbles a cryptic phrase on a post-it note (or not). There is no official challenge, no form is filled out, no name or signature is attached and no review and confirmation is made by a supervisor or the school clerk. There is no notice made to the voter so no due process rights.
Until the publication of this series which includes a complete list of voters whose ballots were voided, over 1,000 voters are unaware they did not vote in the election.
JUNE 2020 New Rochelle School Election Series