Message from the Chief Enforcement Counsel 

 

With the conclusion of the 2023 General Election, my third election cycle as Chief Enforcement Counsel, I can reflect on the progress made by the Division of Election Law Enforcement (DELE). One of our significant accomplishments has been introducing an online complaint form on our website.  The online form makes it much easier for citizens to submit a complaint and provide supporting documentation. Since the form went live at the end of June, DELE has received well over 100 complaints.

However, as the DELE has received complaints, opened cases, and initiated investigations, it became apparent to me that the hearing officer process, which is required by New York State Election Law § 3-104[5](a) for any enforcement action brought by the DELE, is cumbersome and inefficient. One issue is that the same process is required for any enforcement action, whether for a single missed filing or a series of egregious election law offenses. Additionally, obtaining an enforcement penalty can take from months to years. To solve this issue, I have been in discussions with the NYSBOE Counsel’s Office and several NYSBOE Commissioners, who understand that the hearing officer process is unsuitable for every type of enforcement action the DELE takes.

Frequently, many proceedings do not go through the entire hearing officer process due to the parties entering into settlement agreements. Since I was appointed CEC, the DELE has entered into over 20 settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of more than $300,000 in fines and penalties. Seeking settlements is a more practical option regarding enforcement. It is beneficial to all involved as it expedites the conclusion of a matter, preventing potential lengthy and costly litigation. It also allows for the prompt sanctioning of election law violators and the remediation of their violations.

Throughout 2023, the DELE has made great strides in gaining compliance from political committees and candidates who were included on non-filer lists for failing to file campaign financial disclosure statements. Collaboration with the New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) Compliance Unit has helped to decrease the number of delinquent filers, resulting in more accurate and concise non-filer lists. This has allowed the DELE to resume sending non-filer notification letters to candidates, pursuant to NYS Election Law § 14-108(5). Sometimes, when adding another layer to already established processes, unrealized issues and problems are identified. This allows us to see what works and what doesn’t and gives us the opportunity to work with the NYSBOE Compliance Unit, Information Technology, and Counsel’s Office to address issues and find solutions.

As we move into 2024, the DELE remains committed to our mission of protecting the integrity of the New York State election process by providing transparency and fair enforcement of all elections and campaign finance laws that fall under our jurisdiction.

 

Michael L. Johnson

Resources for Filing
File Online
Campaign Finance Handbook

The Campaign Finance Handbook provides information to help filers comply with the campaign financial disclosure laws and requirements.

Electronic Filing System (EFS)

The Electronic Filing System features a user-friendly dashboard interface where filers are able to create, submit, and view disclosure reports.

Register to Vote
Online Voter Registration
Exercise your right as an American citizen — register to vote. You can also use this online service to join a political party, change your party designation, or update your name and address on file with the Board of Elections.
New York State Board of Elections
The New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) website provides information for voters, political committees, and candidates. View Commissioners’ Meetings, election results, county board contact information, enrollment statistics, and more.