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NYC Mayoral Election 2021

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New York’s Board of Elections is a travesty

The head of the city Board of Elections that is now embroiled in its worst controversy for botching New York’s mayoral primary count has been on medical leave for months, leaving the already struggling agency in the hands of his number two, The Post has learned.

Board of Elections executive director Mike Ryan’s deputy, Dawn Sandow, is a Bronx Republican political appointee, who a fellow GOP official described as unqualified to run the board for the city’s first mayoral ranked-choice election.

“She is a disaster,” said the source. “She isn’t very qualified to run a large agency.” 

Sandow, who for years worked for former state Sen. Guy Velella, has for a long time had a “strong hand” at the embattled, patronage-laden agency, a City Council source told The Post. Velella in 2002 was indicted on 25 bribery and conspiracy counts.

Ryan didn’t appear at the BOE’s Council budget hearing in May, when Sandow took his place. 

Ryan on Tuesday told The Post from his Staten Island home that he has stage 4 cancer. He has been on leave since March, as Sandow has taken the helm of the agency, the BOE confirmed.

Sandow was not at a Bronx address listed in public records, when The Post tried to reach her for comment, and didn’t answer the door of an address listed in Rockland County, though a neighbor said she lived there.  

In 2006, Sandow was appointed deputy chief clerk at the board’s Bronx offices, after serving as executive director of the county’s Republican Party beginning in 1998. Sandow voted in the Bronx from 2001 through 2004 and in 2006 while living in New City, Rockland County, the Department of Investigation found in 2008.

On Tuesday, the mayoral election was thrown into a state of chaos when first-round lead holder Eric Adams and others noted that preliminary results released in the afternoon showed 941,832 votes were cast for the Democratic mayoral nomination — a significant increase from the 799,827 ballots counted on primary day.

The BOE then issued a statement citing an “irregularity” before pulling down the vote tallies from its web site. It explained late Tuesday evening that the discrepancy was caused by accidentally including about 130,000 “test” results in the vote count.

“It has been determined that ballot images used for testing were not cleared from the Election Management System (EMS),” the board said in a tweeted statement.

“When the cast votes were extracted for the first pull of RCV [ranked choice voting] results, it included both test and election night results, producing approximately 135,000 additional records,” the board went on. “The board apologizes for the error and has taken immediate measures to ensure the most accurate up to date results are reported.”

The BOE is run by commissioners selected by the county Democratic and Republican parties, a state constitutional dictate, and has largely quashed efforts to reform its operations. 

Because they don’t answer to the governor or mayor, little has been done to reform their operations.

Tuesday’s ballot botching represented the latest — and maybe worst — in several years of missteps by the BOE.

The board admitted to violating election laws by purging 200,000 voters from its rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential primary. That year, 20 percent of trained poll workers didn’t show up to work on Election Day.

In November 2018, high election day humidity rendered its new, $56 million scanners inoperable.

And during the 2020 presidential primaries, the board disqualified 80,000 ballots, because officials weren’t ready to handle the increase in mailed votes cast due to in-person voting concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan

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