New York State Board of Elections Gets No Respect

October 29, 2013

“Faster than a speeding bullet.  More powerful than a locomotive.  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Look! Up in the sky!  It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Superman!”

The Moreland Commission displayed palpable frustration during a three-hour public cross-examination of three State Board of Elections representatives.  Commission members drew repeated attention to the State Board’s enormous enforcement powers – and their bafflement at its failure to use them.

For example, these powers include the appointment of special investigators, with authority to visit and inspect houses and buildings, to inspect and copy books and records, to procure warrants of arrest, to issue subpoenas for testimony and records, to administer oaths and examine witnesses under oath.  Persons who neglect or refuse to furnish information or documents, or neglect or refuse to obey such a subpoena, are guilty of a misdemeanor.  These special investigators may call upon the police, sheriffs and other public officers for assistance in enforcing the election law, who then are required to render such assistance. But apparently the State Board chooses not to open investigations, let alone appoint special investigators or call upon police support to get to the bottom many of the  complaints it receives.  The district attorneys on the Commission repeatedly chided that the State Board for neglect of duty which the State Board reps generally parried by lamenting the Rodney Dangerfield-like treatment they regularly receive in the State Budget process.

So what exactly is the Kryptonite that enfeebles this potential enforcement superhero: limited resources, bi-partisan structure, different priorities, no priorities?  And, faster than you can say "who watches the watchmen", with the Commission inevitably conclude that the State Board of Elections is just a Juvenal delinquent?

Tag: New York State