The Board of Elections will be commanded Thursday to defend the indefensible — plus the incomprehensible, the inexplicable and the incompetent. Good luck with that. The forum will be a hearing of the state Assembly Election Committee, where lawmakers will grill board representatives about their loony, hours-long process for tallying unofficial results.
No other election authority in the nation adds up numbers using the method employed by the board. In brief, when voting is done, poll workers:
Order each of 3,859 computerized scanners at 1,358 poll sites to print out a paper strip that shows the votes cast for every candidate, broken down by election district. Cut up each machine’s strip by election district. Gather the scraps of paper into piles for each race and each one of 6,109 election districts. Add the numbers up by hand and write the totals on sheets of paper that are taken to police stations to be entered into computers for dissemination by The Associated Press.
Doug Kellner, co-chairman of the state Board of Elections, says the city has “an unworkable, Rube Goldberg system” and that, like jurisdictions statewide, the city board should take removable flash drives out of the machines, bring the drives to a central location and have a computer spit out tallies in a matter of minutes.
The board tried to accomplish this simple feat as a test in Queens in November’s general election. With the goal of announcing results by the 11 p.m. news, poll workers were supposed to give flash drives to police for transport to board headquarters and processing. Here’s what happened:
Polls closed at 9 p.m. The first flash drive made it to headquarters at 10:50. The computations continued until 3:20 a.m. They did it faster with scissors and pencils.
Rightly embarrassed, the board pressed its staff at a meeting this week for a speedup plan. The staff responded with mumbo jumbo about legal requirements that no one else knows about.
So now, two key assemblymen, Staten Island’s Michael Cusick, chairman of the Election Law Committee, and Manhattan’s Brian Kavanagh, head of the subcommittee on Election Day operations, say they’ll end the insanity — with legislation, if need be.