New York State has a long track record of poor voter turnout and civic engagement. In 2021, just 23% of registered voters cast ballots in the NYC mayoral primary and, over ten years, only 3% of voters participated in every election for which they were eligible. In 2020, MIT’s Elections Performance Index ranked New York State 47th in voter turnout and electoral administration, placing New York below states such as Texas and Georgia.
New York’s abysmal voter turnout is due, in part, to dysfunction within its central and county Boards of Elections (BOE). Mismanagement of election administration often leaves citizens with overly complicated voting information and prohibitively long lines at the polls. While the state’s Boards of Elections can vary in their performance, with the NYC BOE we’ve seen untraceable absentee ballots in 2020, multiple reports of mismanagement, and 200,000 voters purged from the rolls in 2016, among other failures.
Since 2017, the Revson Foundation has supported the Brennan Center’s efforts to research and advance reforms for New York’s antiquated electoral system—in particular, efforts to establish early voting, automatic voter registration, and small donor public financing. In 2021, with Revson support, the Brennan Center took their research one step further, compiling a comprehensive roadmap to reform. The report analyzed the NYC BOE in-depth, identified areas responsible for dysfunction, and offered specific long-term strategies to reform the agency. The report, titled “How to Fix the New York City Board of Elections” navigates the entrenched, structural challenges within the BOE. The Brennan Center continues to work with the vocal voting rights community to use their findings to build support and the groundwork for change.
Bolstering civic infrastructure and increasing voter participation has long been a central component of Revson’s Education and Urban Affairs portfolio. And Brennan Center’s research illuminates to philanthropists, activists, and citizens a clearer path to electoral fairness in the face of misinformation, polarization, and dysfunctional electoral systems.
Read the report here: How to Fix the New York City Board of Elections | Brennan Center for Justice