City Council probing confusing letter sent to NYC voters

What began as a seemingly harmless letter urging 400,000 New Yorkers to check their voting status has spawned two city council investigations. Those investigations begin with the newly created mayoral initiative called Democracy NYC.

"Clearly, there are people in Democracy NYC who have no concept of the voting process, no knowledge of election law, and are poorly managing this," Council Member Richie Torres said. "I have no doubt in my mind that the mayor had the best intentions in the world, but the fact is Democracy NYC so far is doing more harm than good."

Torres is the head of the Oversight and Investigations Committee. (Council Speaker Corey Johnson asked the panel to look into this.)

Torres is concerned about the overall cost of the letters and if the Board of Elections, at the city and state level, were looped in. He is also worried about allegations of voter suppression.

"There is no reason to suspect a deliberate attempt at confusing voters," Torres said. "I suspect it has more to do with incompetence than malevolence.

The mayor's office is taking a different approach. Bill de Blasio told WNYC radio that about 8 percent of the names should not have been on the list that received the letter. The mayor also said that the initiative stems from voting issues in the 2016 primaries when voting rolls were purged.

Ultimately, this falls at the mayor's feet.

"People calling the Board of Elections to double check their status, or to fix their address so they can vote, are both good things," a spokesman for the mayor said in a statement. "Who is at fault for the small error that occurred is not clear, but we're taking responsibility for it."

Torres said he believes all will become clear when the investigations conclude. And it may come down to undoing Democracy NYC.

"I want it to be well-managed but if it's going to do more harm than good, I think it should be disbanded," Torres said.