SYRACUSE (WBNG) --- The court battle which will help decide the result's of New York's razor-thin 22nd congressional district election is exposing long-time problems with New York's election rules.
One election commissioner in New York State has ideas which he says could prevent the issues from taking place in future elections.
Results in New York’s 22nd congressional race were in many cases delayed because of an unprecedented number of absentee ballots. They had a similar problem in Syracuse, where Dustin Czarny is the Democratic Election Commissioner.
"The system itself was not ready for this," Czarny said, referring to the rules and systems under which elections take place in New York State.
Czarny said a large part of the problem was the volume of absentee ballots this year. He said having so many absentee ballots being counted after Election Day gives campaigns more opportunities to object.
One fix would be for the state to stop allowing people who submitted an absentee ballot to change their vote afterward, he said. It would allow election officials to stop having to check over every ballot to see if a person voted twice and instead would allow them to start counting absentee ballots before Election Day.
“New York's system is not designed for a mail-in balloting system. It envisions much less traffic, and thus the antiquated ways for dealing with objections doesn't take into account the volumes we have right now."
Justice Scott DelConte, who is the judge responsible for the current NY-22 case, has been very critical of the election board’s use of sticky notes to mark challenged ballots. State law says election officials need to mark objections and rulings directly on ballots. But even in Onondoga County election officials don't follow the rules to the tee. Czarny say it would take too long to do that. It's not practical, and hasn't been done in the past, he said.
He said they revamped their entire system in preparation for the spike in mail-in ballots. They would mark both a campaign’s objections and how they ruled on a form. That form was paper clipped to ballots. They would only mark a ballot directly if they had a chance to check back with the person who objected to see if they wanted the ballot set aside. He said it would take too long to do that.
The state rule was designed to be used for far less absentee ballots than we saw this year, he said.
“If there was a better system in place, a more standardized system in place, that allowed us to count ballots but yet photocopy them and put them aside and have them preserved for court, this would eliminate some of these bad faith objections because then the ballots would still lean towards counting,” Czarny said.
Czarny believes campaigns should only be going to court to prove why a ballot shouldn’t be counted. He says the issue with objections would be solved by a statewide standard new system to deal with objections that the state board of elections can not only promote but enforce.
"Yes we need standardization, yes we need proper funding whether it comes from the county government or the New York government, we need to have standard practices, standard staffing, and then the board of elections need to have more responsibility and meet these goals as well,” Czarny said.
Voters across the state should all have the same level of service, he said. The state should make changes to ensure the bar is raised, he said.