One Year Ago At The New York Primary Election, Voters Discovered They’d Been Purged – Now What? [Opinion]

Today is the one-year anniversary of the New York Democratic Primary Election, an election that we should never forget. The election held on April 19, 2016 in New York was a pivotal election in the Democratic nominating race. That’s not just my opinion, that was the exact word used by the Wall Street Journal just before the election. Right after the election, Mother Jones reported that the New York primary “handed Hillary Clinton a much-needed win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.” Conveniently for Hillary Clinton, the election was in the hands of the New York Board of Elections.

Diane Haslett-Rudiano, from the Board of Elections, was the first to be called out for the disenfranchisement of over 100,000 voters. Haslett-Rudiano was in charge of maintaining the voter rolls. A day before the primary election, reports were indicating that as many as 60,000 registered Democratic voters had been removed from the rolls in Bernie Sanders’ hometown of Brooklyn.

This Brooklyn.

This Brooklyn:

This Brooklyn:

As it turned out, it wasn’t 60,000 Democrats removed from the voter rolls in Brooklyn. It was twice that. Around 120,000 people had been purged from the Democratic voter rolls in Brooklyn, CBS New York reported.

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer opened an investigation into the purge, and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also looked into what he called “alleged improprieties” by the New York City Board of Elections.

Here’s an interesting tidbit of information. It wasn’t the first time that Haslett-Rudiano found herself at the center of controversy. She reportedly faced more than 20 Department of Buildings violations over the years over a building that she purchased in 1976 for $5,000. Not only that, but an investigation years ago revealed that Haslett-Rudiano lied about her voting address, claiming that she lived at the East New York address listed in her voter registration records, though she lived in Forest Hills. At the time, Board of Elections Executive Director John Ravitz said that the election commissioners decided that the residency issue wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant disciplinary action against Rudiano, The New York Daily News reported at the time. Mother Jones reported that the building she had purchased for $5,000 in 1976 and let fall into a situation of blight, was ultimately sold for $6.6 million in 2014, even though it was on the market.

Oh, also, in case you weren’t paying attention last year, it was quickly revealed that the property was sold to “an investment group, Holliswood 76 LLC, headed by Dana Lowey Luttway, a developer and daughter of U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D, N.Y.),” a Daily Kos reporter indicated.

A Daily Kos writer brought up the striking coincidence at the time that Nita Lowey was also a Clinton-committed superdelegate.

“I am not intentionally promoting a conspiracy theory. The dots to connect here are obvious. I am bothered. We don’t need any more baseless accusations of election fraud or vote suppression in this primary. So somebody, anybody -— show me there is no reason to wonder here.”

Hillary Clinton won Kings County, which is the county for Brooklyn voters, by less than 60,000 votes, Heavy reported, adding that the purge could have altered the course of the New York primary election delegate allocation.

“If the purged voters had been able to vote, it’s possible that the results might have been very different.”


Brooklyn Deputy Clerk Betty Ann Canizio was also suspended, just as the primary election results in Brooklyn were certified, NBC News reported.

In the last year since the New York Democratic Primary Election, investigations uncovered a host of issues with the way New York handles elections. In January, the Justice Department filed a motion to join a lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections. The motion alleged that the board’s Brooklyn office really did violate federal voter registration law in the now-infamous purge of Brooklyn voters. The Justice Department’s desire to join in on the lawsuit that was filed by Common Cause New York reportedly made the lawsuit much stronger.

“Federal law demands careful maintenance of the voter rolls to ensure lists are kept accurate, without unjustifiably and unlawfully purging eligible citizens,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said, according to The New York Times.

The Gothamist reported that 31,000 affidavit ballots ended up counting towards the vote totals in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, there is not an official count, nor any record of, how many voters may have been turned away having no idea they could request an affidavit ballot. In all of Kings County, Clinton came out ahead by less than 60,000 votes. Brooklyn has more people than any other borough of New York City. Congressional Districts in Brooklyn accounted for 19 delegates, Clinton held 12 of them, and Clinton only led the state by 31 delegates. Another 84 delegates were pledged to the two presidential contenders proportionally based on the statewide vote. It may be difficult to say for sure if the outcome of the New York primary would have been different if the purge never happened, but the erroneous purge of over a 100,000 people from the voter rolls should never be forgotten so that it is never repeated. So, on this one-year anniversary of the New York Primary Election, let’s remember.

[Featured Image by Mary Altaffer/AP Images]