Op-Ed: The Purging Of Voters Continues & Shame On The City For Not Fixing It (Updated)

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Stephen Witt

Ever since KCP broke the story about some 125,000 Democratic and 11,000 registered Republicans being purged from the voter rolls last year there was a loud and vocal uproar. Board of Election clerks lost their jobs and after a media hue and cry, everybody was assured that things were fixed.

The problem is they never were fixed and I, the editor-in-chief of Kings County Politics, can anecdotally attest to it because I was one of the voters purged. Shortly after the entire purging issue came to the forefront, I received a letter from the city’s Board of Elections informing me I was registered upstate New York and was no longer eligible to vote in city elections. I found this peculiar for I had moved from upstate to Brooklyn in 2001, where I re-registered both my voting and drivers license address and have voted at the same P.S 179 polling site on the corner of Avenue C and East 3rd Street in Kensington, since 2003.

Undaunted, I called the BOE and filled out new forms online hoping the problem was solved, but the issue came up again this past Tuesday when I went to vote in the primary for both the 44th Assembly district seat vacated by the retiring Assembly Member Jim Brennan and for several judicial seats. Upon on arriving at the polling site, I gave my address and was directed to the usual election district table, when to my surprise, I was told I was not a registered voter.

incredulously I asked the site worker if they were sure, and they said the only registered Witt at that address was a Rebecca Witt, who is my daughter and lived with me in 2004 for about six months before moving to California. Oddly, despite my insistence that Rebecca register to vote, she never actually cast a ballot in New York, while I have voted in every primary and general election since moving to the neighborhood.

But the city BOE deemed my daughter Rebecca eligible to vote and not me.

So I asked the poll site worker if I could cast some kind of absentee ballot. She said, ‘No,” and handed me a form to re-register by mail. She told me the same thing happened to her a few times, but she kept on filling out the form until the BOE finally deemed her registered to vote.

Then the woman took me over to the poll site supervisor to make sure I had the right form to mail into the BOE to re-register. The supervisor, a very nice fairly new immigrant (as I live in a large immigrant neighborhood) assured me I had the right form and to mail it in as there is no postage due on the form.

“This election doesn’t really matter anyway,” she told me. “The important election is the presidential election and if I mail in the form right away I should be eligible to vote for that election.”

So here was an election that I have covered at length for KCP, and in which I find very important, in which I was unable to vote, and was told it wasn’t important anyway.

Being unable to cast my vote, I sadly walked back home and flung the registration form on the corner of the kitchen table among the pile of bills waiting to get paid. Sometime before the end of the week, I’ll again fill out the form and send it in. Hopefully the BOE will get it together and again allow me to vote.

But let me state again. The purging of longtime voters from the voter rolls in Brooklyn has not been fixed. I know this first hand, and it’s a damn shame on Brooklyn, this city and democracy.

Editor’s Afterward: After much discussion with the BOE, it is determined that I never registered with a party affiliation, even though I insist I did and have a record of my doing so with in March to vote in last April’s Primaries. The BOE said that is the reason I was not in the voter books on Tuesday. They also say they received notice I am registered upstate, but insisted I’m still registered to vote in Brooklyn for the general election.    

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