New York’s mayoral candidates on Tuesday began collecting the petition signatures needed for their names to appear on the September primary ballot — for an election that promises to be a botch of infamous proportions. This, right now, is the moment for the Legislature to rescue the city from a near-certain nightmare by authorizing the Board of Elections to press the old, clunker, mechanical voting machines back into action. At Washington’s orders, the board mothballed the contraptions in favor of electronic ballot scanners. But these devices are functionally useless up against the quick succession of elections that are likely this fall: first a primary, then a runoff if no candidate gets more than 40%, then the November general election.
The process of tabulating votes and recalibrating the machines is extraordinarily time consuming, on top of which board regulations mandate recounting by hand in the event that the leading candidates are separated by a margin of 0.5%.
We’re talking about eyeballing and tallying 800,000 paper ballots. Even if the contest is not close enough to trigger a hand count, determining which two candidates get into the runoff could take weeks.
Some legislators and good government advocates have begun to argue that New York should drop the requirement for a hand count in an extremely close race. They see the lever machines as a step backward and would prefer to accept whatever results the scanners spit out.