A day after New York City voters encountered waits lasting hours and chaos at many poll sites, elected officials and government watchdog groups agreed that the city’s election process needed major change. But there was little consensus about what to do or how it could be done. “It’s time for a comprehensive scrutiny of the way we handle elections in this city and state,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, one of the state’s most prominent election lawyers. “The system needs radical reform,” he added. Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council and a leading contender for mayor should she run next year, said that the city’s election process needed a “major soup-to-nuts overhaul” and that the Council planned to lobby Albany to enact changes.
The State Constitution sets the parameters for how all elections in the state are managed, requiring that Republicans and Democrats be equally represented at all levels of election administration. In New York City, the 10 Board of Elections members are recommended by the Democratic and Republican Party committees in each of the five boroughs and then confirmed by the City Council. The parties also play a central role in installing people in staff positions. The board currently has no executive director in part because the county leaders have not been able to agree on a candidate.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a frequent critic of the board, called Wednesday for eliminating the patronage system by which the commissioners are appointed.
“I think the real answer here is: We should reform this system,” he said. “It should not be two parties and county leaders picking their buddies to supervise the basis of our citizenship.”