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New York City election officials to resend ballots after about 100,000 voters get misprints

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Officials in New York will send out new absentee ballots after about 100,000 voters in Brooklyn were sent return envelopes with wrong information, an error officials attributed to the vendor.

The error was limited to voters in the one borough, the New York City Board of Elections’ executive director, Michael Ryan, said during a public meeting Tuesday. The board received complaints from voters who received “absentee ballots with the proper ballot but the improper oath envelope,” he said, referring to an inner return envelope with the voter’s information that must be signed before voters return their ballots.

Ryan said the vendor, Phoenix Graphics, will reprint the ballot packages, which will be mailed out to all the potentially affected voters “to make certain that absolutely no disenfranchisement occurs in the borough of Brooklyn.” He said the vendor will bear the cost of the reprint and redistribution.

Phoenix Graphics did not immediately respond to a request from The Post seeking comment.

Ryan did not disclose the number of affected voters. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), told reporters during a news conference that the error affected about 100,000 people in Brooklyn.

“To say we’re troubled by this is the understatement of the year,” DeRosa said Tuesday.

Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, a spokeswoman for the board of elections, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post but told CNN the error affected 99,477 voters.

The new ballots will contain inserts explaining to voters why they’re getting another one, Ryan said. The board will also attempt to reach out to voters to explain the error, and will use social media to inform voters of the problem.

“It is essential that confidence be established in this process and that we make certain that all of the voters who potentially have a problem have a full and fair opportunity to remedy that problem,” Ryan said.

The elections board called on New Yorkers who received the envelopes with the wrong name to contact them via Twitter or email or to call 866-868-3692. The board also posted the message on its Facebook page.

Numerous New Yorkers reported Monday that they had received mixed-up return envelopes, which could invalidate their votes if they tried to mail them in.

Brooklyn resident Kabeer Malhotra requested an absentee ballot for the first time, hoping to avoid the perils of a voting booth during the coronavirus pandemic. But he tore open his ballot Monday to find a return envelope with someone else’s name printed on the front.

In a tweet, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) called the incident “unacceptable.”

He urged voters to check to make sure the oath envelopes included with their ballot has the correct name and address. “If it is incorrect, DO NOT USE IT,” the mayor tweeted.

The mass error comes soon after the elections board struggled to tally a flood of absentee ballots in June primaries, leaving some races undecided for weeks. As Republican critics relentlessly assail the security of mail-in voting, the latest mishap — which President Trump highlighted in retweets about the ballot errors — will only add fuel to that argument, Malhotra worries.

“The rhetoric our president is using and all the fearmongering over mail-in voting makes me worry there’s going to be so much hysteria around errors like this, that people are going to panic,” Malhotra, a 36-year-old who works in the TV and film industry, told The Washington Post. “Some people won’t know what to do.”

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Advocates said they were hearing from affected voters in Brooklyn. Many Brooklyn residents also took to Twitter on Monday evening to share their personal stories of mislabeled return envelopes.

“I have heard from dozens of voters individually today, all concentrated in Brooklyn, that they have received return ballot envelopes that are not in their name,” Ali Najmi, a New York elections lawyer, told The Post.

Crystal Hudson, a candidate for New York City Council, said a neighbor sent her a message that she had received Hudson’s return envelope by mistake. Confused, Hudson then opened all three of her family’s absentee ballots and found that each had the wrong return envelope inside.

“So let’s recap — my neighbor’s wife has my absentee ballot; he has his wife’s ballot; and his is missing,” she tweeted. “These neighbors also shared that they are immigrants & are very excited to vote in their first presidential election as citizens.”

Terry Kinney, an actor and director best known for his role on HBO’s “Oz,” said he opened his absentee ballot Monday after reading about the problems.

“Lo and behold- I got someone else’s ballot,” he tweeted, adding, “Come on, this is a nightmare.”

Carlina Rivera, a city council member, noted that she wrote an op-ed in July demanding a review of the city’s elections vendors after issues delivering absentee primary ballots to voters. Instead, she tweeted, the board of elections “ignored my warnings w/ disastrous results. There must be a reckoning, starting at the top.”

The mislabeled envelopes weren’t the only printing error spotted Monday.

NYC Votes, a voter education organization, noted that some residents had gotten ballots labeled “Official Absentee Military Ballot,” even though they’re not in the military. The organization blamed the issue on a missing slash between the words “absentee” and “military,” and it said those ballots are still valid.

The election boards also tweeted reiterating that such ballots are correct, “even if you are not a military voter.”

Malhotra said that rather than risk another mailing mishap, he’s going to cast his ballot in person at an early-voting site.

“I’m privileged because I can go in person and make absolutely sure my vote will be counted,” he said. “But I know there are so many essential workers who don’t have that privilege.”