Mail-in voting has gotten off to a rocky start in New York City, where election officials sent out a large number of absentee ballots with the wrong names and addresses on the return envelopes.
The faulty ballots were sent to an unknown number of voters in Brooklyn and could result in ballots being voided if voters sign their own name on return envelopes bearing different names. More than 140,000 ballots have already been sent out so far across the borough. It was unclear how many people got the wrong envelopes.
The New York City Board of Elections blamed the problem on the vendor hired to print and mail the ballots for voters in Brooklyn and Queens.
“We are determining how many voters have been affected but we can assure that the vendor will address this problem in future mailings, and make sure people who received erroneous envelopes receive new ones,” Board of Elections Executive Sirector Michael J. Ryan said in a written statement.
He said the proper ballots and envelopes would get to voters before the Nov. 3 election. Ryan didn’t immediately describe how that would happen, how much it would cost or what would happen if voters had already mailed their completed ballot back in the provided envelopes.
A message seeking comment was sent to the printer the city blamed for the error, Phoenix Graphics.
Meanwhile, the city elections board was also dealing with confusion regarding another printing anomaly on absentee ballots.
Ordinarily, absentee ballots in the city are sent out with a heading identifying them as an “Official Absentee / Military Ballot.” This year, the slash between “absentee” and “military” was left out, leading some voters to believe they had mistakenly been mailed a ballot for use only by members of the military.
The board tweeted that the ballot was still good for use by any registered voter.
The pair of mishaps took place despite intense scrutiny of mail-in voting nationwide. And it comes on the heels of a rocky spring primary in New York in which election boards struggled to handle a record amount of voting by mail.
In Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, Victoria Edel, 28, said her family of four was excited to open up their ballots to vote by mail. They had requested them online Aug. 22.
Then, they discovered she had received her younger brother’s ballot envelope. Her younger brother had her mother’s. Her mother had the envelope of a woman who appears to live nearby.
“It’s worrisome because I could see easily a lot of people who aren’t necessarily watching the news or just don’t even realize, filling out the ballot, signing it and sending it, and obviously when it got to the Board of Elections it would get thrown out because the signature doesn’t match,” Edel said. “It feels like it’s really easy for a lot of people to be disenfranchised this way.”
She’s hopeful she’ll get her correct envelope eventually.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 400,000 New York City residents voted by absentee ballot in during the primary, a figure that was 10 times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primary.
Many voters complained that their absentee ballots didn’t arrive in time for the primary. And thousands of ballots cast by mail were later disqualified for minor technical errors, including voters forgetting to sign their name, or the U.S. Postal Service failing to put a postmark on the ballot indicating when it was sent.