More than a month after New York’s June 23 primary elections, state election officials are still counting votes. In some legislative districts, they haven’t even started counting absentee votes. In the best-case scenario, election officials hope to declare winners by the first Tuesday in August—six weeks after Election Day. It might take a lot longer than that. Election officials in New York City have already invalidated upwards of 100,000 absentee ballots—about one of every five that were mailed in from the five boroughs. And furious candidates are already filing lawsuits charging discrimination and disenfranchisement.
The chaos in New York is a warning about November’s elections: Voting is being transformed by the pandemic. But no state has built new election infrastructure. No state has the time or the money to make sure vote-counting will go smoothly in November. And just about every state is about to be hit with a massive surge of absentee ballots.
“This is what happens,” a New York election official told me over the phone last week, “when you jury-rig a system that hasn’t been designed or implemented or tested before.”
In New York, the election infrastructure was overwhelmed by a massive increase in voters requesting absentee ballots rather than risking voting in person.