Skip to Content

NY-22 Update: Oneida settles with Justice Department, statewide election hearings announced

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

(WBNG) -- Federal and state governments have once again turned their eyes back on last November's ill-fated election for New York's twenty-second congressional district.

The federal Justice Department announced it has settled its voting rights lawsuit with the Oneida County Boards of Elections (BOE); the department filed the lawsuit back in March accusing the board of disenfranchising thousands of voters during the lead-up to the 2020 November election.

As part of the settlement, the Oneida BOE and the Justice Department officially recognized the board broke two federal voting rights laws: the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.

The settlement found Oneida violated the NVRA because the BOE failed to process the applications of more than 2400 people who properly and timely submitted voter registration applications through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The board was found to have violated HAVA because it failed to review upward of 1800 affidavit ballots to determine if they were valid or not.

According to the settlement, the Oneida County Board of Elections stopped processing voter registration forms a full 15 days before the early-October deadline; the settlement does not mention why the BOE did this.

As a result of this local-federal agreement, the BOE will have to report its progress periodically to the Justice Department to ensure these errors don't happen again; a court will still have to sign off on the settlement to make it official.

While it made the most egregious errors during that election, Oneida County's BOE wasn't the only one that failed to follow election laws; a state Supreme Court Justice found earlier this year 7 of 8 counties had made errors during the canvassing process.

The New York State Senate's Elections Committee Chair, Democrat Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn, told 12 News NY-22 wasn't alone in its problems over the past year. He said coupled with other BOE mishaps in the Capital Region, as well as the NYCBOE's mishandling of its recent Democratic mayoral primary, the state's BOE has become a national embarrassment.

Because of this, Myrie announced his committee will be holding a series of hearings this summer to investigate the various issues.

He said the goal is to hear from voters and elections officials about the problems they faced, with the goal of developing a series of potential reforms the state can enact.

"My hope is that New York could lead the way by passing our own voting rights act so that we are catching these things before they become a problem and so if Oneida County had to clear its practices for a particular election prior to things happening with enough lead time, I think we could have caught some of these fixes," Myrie said Thursday.

The state senator said there will be a hearing held in Syracuse likely in early August that will focus substantially on NY-22.

He added it's important for Oneida County disenfranchised voters and especially county elections workers to testify about their experiences.

Josh Rosenblatt

Skip to content