Schneiderman wants to alter voter challenge system

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Those who challenge ballots at polling places would have to outline their reasons for a challenge in an affidavit under a bill from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Under state law, any registered voter can challenge the validity of another person’s voting status at the ballot box if there’s an issue with their signature or are suspected to be living out of state. When a challenge is raised, the challenged voter then has to recite an oath declaring they are legally able to cast a ballot before they are allowed to vote.

But voter challenges can be used to intimidate voters — particularly minorities and non-English speakers, according to Schneiderman’s office. Under the bill, which was introduced yesterday by Assemblyman Karim Camara, D-Queens, the challenger would have to submit an affidavit of their own, listing their name, address, employer and reason for a challenge.

The bill would also automatically make it “presumptive evidence” of voter intimidation if someone who isn’t an election clerk or inspector lodges more than 10 challenges during a single election or doesn’t fill out an affidavit.

“We have an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters are free to cast ballots inside the polls on Election Day, without being subject to harassment, baseless challenges or intimidating tactics,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

The bill was inspired by a high number of voter challenges lodged in Dutchess and Nassau counties, according to Schneiderman’s office. If passed, it would take effect a year after it’s signed into law.

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