City Board of Elections Dodges Responsibility
By Michael Aronson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I have seen all manner of idiocy at the Board of Elections.
I’ve seen Election Night workers waste hours tabulating vote totals by hand — never mind that the city’s electronic vote scanners are equipped with memory drives that could tally votes instantaneously and exactly.
I’ve seen the board’s 10 members talk themselves into silly paralysis about finding a new and better way — never mind that every other election board in the state gets quick, accurate results by plugging the memory drives into computers for tabulations.
And now, almost a week after indicating that Rep. Charles Rangel had defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a congressional primary by 2,331 votes, I see the consequences of the board’s stubborn incompetence. After finally getting around to checking the memory drives, the board says that Rangel’s true margin is 802 votes, with three times that number in absentee and affidavit ballots yet to be tallied.
It has been widely reported that Rangel’s advantage narrowed in the vote-counting process. This is false.
The board is also blaming the police for the botched Election Night results. This, too, is false.
What’s true is that the board is dodging every which way to avoid accountability for an all-too-predictable and nationally embarrassing fiasco.
The first thing you need to understand is that Election Night results are a quick, unofficial count that has long entailed writing down numbers produced by voting machines and transporting the figures to a police stationhouse for entry into a computer and then distribution by The Associated Press.
The system worked smoothly when voters used the old mechanical lever machines. But the board has let the process go haywire since the adoption of the electronic vote scanners —
which were supposed to simplify things.
Rather than have poll workers plug the memory drive in each scanner into a computer, the board has poll workers print out paper tapes that show voting tallies, cut the tapes into fragments by election district, add the numbers for each election district — and then enter the figures onto sheets of paper to be taken to stationhouses for manual entry into a computer.
The poll workers get a lot of things wrong — and that’s what happened in the Rangel-Espaillat contest. The votes in dozens of districts were never added up so that, four days later, when the board finally got around to checking the memory drives, Rangel and Espaillat got wildly different numbers.