The erroneous ballots could pose a big problem with Election Day around the corner, and state officials are blaming a pair of errors by Phoenix Graphics, the commercial printing company that handled the ballots.
“We at Phoenix Graphics have learned that we experienced mechanical-inserting issues when producing 2020 General Election Absentee ballots for Kings County and Nassau County,” company president Sal DeBiase said in a statement. “We estimate this has affected less than 1 percent of the mailings, of what was the first of many absentee-ballot orders for these counties. Future mailings will not be affected. Phoenix Graphics is in the process of reprinting and mailing all materials to correct the project and will be covering all expenses related to production and postage. We have prided ourselves on accuracy and quality in our 40-year history of printing ballots. We are truly sorry for the inconvenience that has occurred. We are actively making necessary production adjustments to prevent such errors in the future.”
Some recipients reported that the name and address printed on their official ballot envelope was wrong or that they received a ballot that appeared to be a “military absentee” when they were not a member of the armed forces.
“Obviously we saw the same news as everyone else last night on social media, and to say we are troubled by this is the understatement of the year,” said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to Governor Andrew Cuomo. “It looks like it is confined to 100,000 people in Brooklyn. There could be spillover in other zip codes.”
That spillover apparently includes Nassau County.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday night to react to the erroneous ballots in New York City.
100,000 DEFECTIVE BALLOTS IN NEW YORK. THEY WANT TO REPLACE THEM, BUT WHERE, AND WHAT HAPPENS TO, THE BALLOTS THAT WERE FIRST SENT? THEY WILL BE USED BY SOMEBODY. USA, END THIS SCAM – GO OUT AND VOTE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2020
Officials say there were 129,000 total absentee ballots requested there, and the vendor had processed 89,000. Of those, 781 had errors.
“So 781, that’s way too many,” Nassau County Board of Elections Commissioner James Scheuerman said. “But voters should feel confident that there was a problem, we identified it, and rectified it.”
The county is staffing the Board of Elections this weekend with 30 people working two separate12-hour shifts to do the remaining 40,000 in house instead of using the vendor again
DeRosa noted that there were two simultaneous issues causing confusion among voters, saying the first was that some absentee ballots were missing a slash in between “military” and “absentee,” leading some voters to think they received a military ballot and not a ballot that can be both military and absentee.
The second, she outlined, was with the vendor mismatching ballots and envelopes.
“There are people who are getting…the correct ballot but not the correct envelope,” DeRosa said. “We’ve obviously called the Board of Elections, the state Board of Elections, and we’ve told them they’ve got to figure how to deal with this right away.”
Dara Levy says her elderly parents received their absentee ballots in California, and her family — from the Five Towns — instead got envelopes with other people’s names on them.
“Your vote has to count and it can’t be a mistake, and you can’t get someone else’s ballot,” she said. “Completely wrong names, wrong addresses, wrong school districts. Not my parents.”
New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie tweeted on Tuesday that he heard reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to prevent the BOE from correcting the issue.
This is straight up disenfranchisement and an affront to our democracy. The vendor screwed up and is trying to fix it. Let them!
— Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie 米维 (@zellnor4ny) September 29, 2020
The governor’s office tweeted a statement in response:
Phoenix Graphics, based in Rochester, was hired to mail out ballots in Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Long Island. The company was also hired to print and send ballots in June’s primary and has worked with the city’s Board of Elections in the past.
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