More than 200 outraged New York voters have joined a lawsuit claiming the party affiliation on their voter registration changed without their consent. The voters say they are unfairly being shut out of Tuesday’s primary.
The suit, to be filed Monday in Brooklyn, calls for New York to be an open primary state, allowing anyone to vote in primaries regardless of party affiliation.
“For many of our complainants, to have the electoral process deprived of them, it’s devastating,” Shyla Nelson, an activist and spokeswoman for Election Justice U.S.A., told the Daily News.
New York is one of 11 states that has a closed primary system and, due to an obscure election law, voters must have been registered by November of the previous year for the party whose primary they plan to vote in — this is the earliest change-of-party deadline in the country.
“If the primary were open, this would be a non-issue for thousands of registered voters that have had this happen to them,” Nelson said. “By making the primary open, it eliminates one of the most vexing problems New Yorkers have dealt with in this primary season.
“It’s a threat to the democratic process,” he added.
The closed primary system is intended to prevent “party raiding,” when voters switch parties en masse to influence their rival party’s primary.
But the extra restrictions and early deadlines can leave some people out, even the children of GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s, who won’t be voting in the Republican primary because of what they called an “onerous” process.
Numerous voters involved in the suit claim they looked up their voter registrations after the deadline passed to find that their party affiliation had changed from Democratic or Republican to “Not affiliated” or “Independent,” a switch that will bar them from voting in either primary.
Joanna Viscuso, 19, from Seaford, L.I., said she registered to vote as a Democrat during her college orientation at Adelphi University in 2014.
She noticed earlier this week that now her voter registration online says she is “not affiliated” with a party.
The Bernie Sanders campaign has publicly criticized the closed primary system because it will exclude many of his supporters from voting for him.
She called Nassau Board of Elections and they told her that she had filled out a form in September change her party affiliation and sent it in October, but she claims she never did that. She’d be a first-time voter.
“As soon as I noticed it was changed I was infuriated and then when they said there was nothing I could do I was still infuriated,” she said. “All of a sudden we can’t vote? That’s ridiculous!”
Fabrizio Milito, another voter who signed up with the suit, registered as a Democrat in 2009 and voted in local elections as recent as last year.
The 25-year-old construction worker from Bayville, L.I., noticed his registration now says “not affiliated.”
“I got really upset and I went to call them (the Nassau board of elections) and even the guy on the phone was pretty baffled,” Melito said. “He told me I must have changed it but I never did.”
Some voters involved in the lawsuit — who are primarily Democratic — also claim they their voter registration had been canceled altogether.
“The integrity of the election process is vital to democracy,” fumed Cliff Arnebeck, an Ohio-based attorney involved with Election Justice U.S.A. who has litigated against election fraud since 2000.
Requests for comment from the New York State Board of Elections were not immediately returned.
In the Empire State, the Bernie Sanders campaign has publicly slammed the closed primary policy saying it shuts out independent voters and young voters, two groups that would tend to vote for the socialist-leaning candidate.
“We have a system here in New York where independents can’t get involved in the Democratic primary, where young people who have not previously registered and want to register today can’t do it,” Sanders said during a rally Wednesday night in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.