Board of Elections replaces top official amid pledge for reform

The embattled city Board of Elections bounced its powerful No. 2 official amid a pledge for reform after a series of gaffes.

The board replaced Dawn Sandow, the deputy executive director for 11 years, with former Staten Island Republican councilman Vincent Ignizio.

Sandow was demoted to the Bronx office, though election officials claimed the transfer was voluntary.

Sandow — who was in charge when the agency botched the initial ranked-choice voting count for New York’s Democratic mayoral primary in June — is being reassigned to the Bronx borough office.

The shake-up was necessary, a key lawmaker said.

“The GOP was looking for a change of direction and some reform of the agency,” said Councilman Joe Borelli, the Republican minority leader.

Ignizio, who is leaving his gig as the CEO of Catholic Charities of Staten Island, vowed to make the BOE a more accountable and responsive agency.

Vincent Ignizio promises the Board of Elections will be “more accountable to the public.”
Metropolitan Transportation Authority

“Clearly, we have work to do to make the Board of Elections more efficient in its operations, more transparent in its processes, and more accountable to the public,” Ignizio, who also serves as the Staten Island GOP chairman, said.

He said he would work closely with BOE executive director Michael Ryan, a fellow Staten Islander, and elected officials “in reforming this agency.”

Election officials downplayed the removal of Sandow.

The BOE, in a statement, said, “We thank Dawn Sandow for her years of dedicated service to the Board of Elections and the voters of the City of New York. Ms. Sandow is nearing her retirement and requested to return to the Bronx office to finish out her time till retirement.”

Sandow, in her own prepared statement, said, “The last 11 years as Deputy Executive Director has been a great and challenging experience. I am proud of our accomplishments during my tenure and now look forward to ending my BOE career where it all started in the Borough of the Bronx. I want to congratulate Mr. Vinny Ignizio on his appointment and wish him all the best.”

Sandow was in charge during the primary election season because Ryan was on sick leave recovering from cancer.

Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island)
Councilman Joe Borelli hailed the Board of Elections’ decision to appoint former Staten Island councilman Vincent Ignizio.
William Farrington
People fill ballots in privacy booths at a polling station at the Jackie Robinson School during the New York City mayoral election in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., November 2, 2021.
The Board of Elections says Dawn Sandow requested to leave in preparation for future retirement.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The results in the Democratic primary were initially thrown into chaos when then candidates noted that the BOE’s preliminary results during the first initial ranked-choice vote were substantially higher than the machine count on Election Day. Mayor-elect Eric Adams ultimately prevailed.

The BOE then issued a statement citing an “irregularity” before pulling down the vote tallies from its website. It explained that the discrepancy was caused by accidentally including about 130,000 “test” results in the vote count.

Pens and "I voted" stickers seen on Election Day at a voting site at PS 171 on November 02, 2021 in the Queens borough of New York City.
The Board of Elections recently struggled to count an influx of mail-in-ballots during the 2020 presidential primaries.
Ron Adar / M10s / MEGA

The botched vote count was just the latest gaffe in a series of missteps by the BOE.

The board admitted to violating election laws by purging 200,000 voters from its rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential primary. That year, 20 percent of trained poll workers didn’t show up to work on Election Day.

A view of voting booths during primary election voting in New York, New York, USA, 13 September 2018.
NYC’s Board of Election has been criticized for mixing 130,000 “test” results into the final vote tally during the Democratic mayoral primary.
EPA/JUSTIN LANE

In November 2018, high election day humidity rendered its new, $56 million scanners inoperable.

And during the 2020 presidential primaries, the board disqualified 80,000 ballots, because officials weren’t ready to handle the increase in mailed votes cast due to in-person voting concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.