New York City voters receive mail-in ballots with wrong address and names on return envelopes

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Postal voting got off to a rough start in New York City, where election officials mailed out large numbers of mail ballots with the wrong names and addresses on the return envelopes.The defective ballots were sent to an unknown number of voters in Brooklyn and could result in void ballots if voters signed their own names on return envelopes with different names. More than 140,000 ballot papers have already been sent to date in the borough and it is not known how many people have received the wrong envelope.

The New York City Council of Elections attributed the problem to the Rochester supplier hired to print and mail the ballots for voters in Brooklyn and Queens.

Defective ballots are limited to “one draw” sent to voters in Brooklyn, board director Michael Ryan said at a board meeting on Tuesday. He did not say how many ballots were printed in that race, but said the seller said the error “has been detected and corrected in the future.”

All voters potentially affected by the error will receive new re-printed ballots and envelopes ahead of the Nov. 3 election from the vendor – which will cover the cost, Ryan said.

He said the move “will ensure that no loss of voting rights occurs in the borough of Brooklyn.”

It’s a mess, it’s an absolute mess– Marla Garfield, Brooklyn resident

But it’s unclear exactly how the city will treat voters who had already returned their completed ballots in the envelopes provided.

Ryan said election workers will contact voters via social media and, if possible, by phone and email. And he said the board will ensure that all ballots received are “handled appropriately” and that the votes counted are “properly credited” to voters.

“It is essential that trust is built in this process and that we make sure that all voters who may have a problem have a full and fair opportunity to address the problem,” Ryan said.

Meanwhile, the municipal elections committee was also facing confusion over another printing anomaly on mail-in ballots.

City absentee ballots are sent with a title: Official Absentee / Military Ballot. This year the slash between “absent” and “military” was left out, leading some voters to believe that they had mistakenly received a ballot intended for use only by members of the army.

The council tweeted that the ballot was still usable by any registered voter.

“Smooth, stable, safe”

City public attorney Jumaane Williams said the city’s election board had failed to ensure a “fair, stable and secure election” and called for an investigation and possibly replacement of the seller.

Marla Garfield, a 46-year-old writer who lives in Park Slope in Brooklyn, said she received a ballot envelope with another person’s name on it and a ballot titled “Absentee Military.”

Garfield said she was “furious” at the errors, voting in person instead. She said she was concerned the confusion could fuel mistrust in the mail-in vote and Republicans’ opposition to the November election results.

“It’s a mess, it’s an absolute mess,” she said.

In Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, Victoria Edel, 28, said her family of four was delighted to open their mail-in ballots. They had requested them online on August 22.

Then they found out that she had received the voting envelope from her younger brother. His younger brother had his mother’s. His mother had the envelope of a woman who seems to live nearby. She said she worried about people who don’t watch the news and who may still be returning ballots in the wrong envelopes.

“It feels like it’s really easy for a lot of people to be disenfranchised this way,” Edel said. She hopes she will eventually get her good envelope.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 400,000 New Yorkers voted by mail ballot, a figure that was 10 times the number of mail-in votes cast in the 2016 primary.

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