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NYC Board Of Elections Secretary Responds To Criticism Over Long Early Voting Lines: 'I Think A Lot Of It Is Unfair'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As New Yorkers continue to wait in long lines for early voting, there are still many unanswered questions from the New York City Board of Elections.

All week long, CBS2 News has been requesting an interview with BOE executive director Michael Ryan. He's still unavailable to answer questions, but finally Thursday, we got someone else from the board willing to speak -- board secretary Frederic Umane.

"I think a lot of it is unfair," Umane told CBS2's Andrea Grymes.

WEB EXTRA: Tri-State Area Voter Guide For Nov. 3 General Election

Umane feels it's unfair that voters and elected officials are beating up on the board for massive lines and other problems.

He says they're adding polling hours this weekend to deal with enormous turnout during the first time early voting has been allowed in a presidential election -- and in the middle of a pandemic, no less.

"A lot of critics of the Board of Elections say that you all should have seen some of these issues ahead of time and the planning wasn't there to accommodate all the people. What do you say to that?" Grymes asked.

"If some of the elected officials who are now criticizing us had helped us try and get early voting sites, we would've had more," Umane said.

Voters continued to wait in long lines across New York City for the fifth day of early voting. (Credit: CBS2)

He says this is true of the mayor on down, in at least Manhattan and especially on the Upper East Side.

RELATED STORY: Long Lines At Polling Places Persist On Day 6 Of Early Voting In New York City

Umane says no one helped find suitable places willing to let their space be used for nearly two weeks.

"It's not a question of staffing or equipment, it may be an issue of sites, and in Manhattan, we used all the sites that were available to us," he said.

In Manhattan, there are 16 early voting sites and about 300 sites on Election Day.

Citywide, there are 88 early voting sites and 1,204 on Election Day.

A big issue Umane does foresee is counting all the mail-in ballots. Since the state made it easier to request one, he says the board has sent out more than 1 million when historically, they usually send a fraction of that.

RELATED STORY: De Blasio Calls For Board Of Elections Overhaul After Waiting In Long Early Voting Line

Umane says there's a legal process they must follow to count all the votes and it'll take at least until the first week of December to do so.

In a statement, the mayor's office said the board's incompetence and lack of preparedness is responsible for the long lines. The statement also says the mayor offered multiple ideas for early voting sites but the board never requested help.


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