“In anticipation of voting in the April 19, 2016, presidential primary in New York, Kathleen Menegozzi checked her registration online. The Brooklyn resident, a registered Democrat since 2008, learned three weeks before the election that she had been struck from the rolls. Another Brooklyn Democrat, Casey James Diskin, who first joined the party in 2012, discovered five days before the primary that he was not registered at all.
In Manhattan, Michael Hubbard, a Democrat since 2015, checked his status online 17 days before planning to vote, only to find that he too was no longer registered. Meanwhile, in Queens, Benjamin Leo Gersh, who also had been a registered Democrat since 2015, checked on his voter status, and saw two weeks before the primary that he too had been purged.
Then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would eventually reveal that they were among 200,000 New York City voters who had been illegally wiped off the rolls and prevented from voting in the presidential primary. But by January of 2017, when Schneiderman announced that he would intervene in a federal lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, the news fell on deaf ears.
The announcement had come just seven days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Although it was the first time the total number of purged voters had been disclosed, the media was consumed with a different statistic: the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. At the same time, a snowballing narrative that Russia had hacked the U.S. election would overshadow the indisputable fact that a domestic government agency had committed election fraud.
The lack of media attention was in stark contrast to the recent barrage of headlines about a right-wing push to purge eligible voters from the rolls. Much of the media ignored New York’s proven case of election fraud, perhaps because it had been facilitated by Democrats, and not by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican with a national profile for championing stricter voter ID legislation.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit, which was initially launched by a coalition of three voter rights groups, never went to trial – the New York City Board of Elections didn’t even try to dispute the attorney general’s findings. “The New York City Board of Elections got caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” said Jose Perez, general counsel for one of the plaintiffs, Latino Justice PRLDEF.
In October of 2017, the city’s elections board quietly settled the lawsuit by admitting it broke federal and state election laws. It agreed to a vague list of reforms in a consent decree, including that it “overhaul its voter registration and list maintenance procedures, adequately train relevant staff, submit to regular monitoring of its voter registration and list maintenance activities, and review every registration cancelled since July, 1, 2013.” (Read more: City & State New York, 11/06/2018)