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Hurry Up Already: In What Could Be a Busy Election Year, NYC Urged to Pick Up the Pace

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[Image courtesy of Will Recruit For Food]

This blog has already covered - in great detail - the frustrations many feel about New York state's seeming inability to find a way to schedule and administer elections in a way that doesn't do violence to common sense and, potentially, the state's finances.

An editorial in today's Daily News suggests that this approach is not unique to Albany, but also exists in New York City as well. In particular, the Daily News complains that the City Board of Elections is treating its new voting machines like old technology in a way that unnecessarily complicates and delays the count:

For the uninitiated: When polls close [in NYC], workers at 1,358 sites press buttons that command 3,643 vote-counting scanners to print out paper tapes, resembling supermarket receipts, only longer.

The workers then cut up the strips by contest and election district, organize the scraps into piles, add the election district numbers up by hand and write the totals on unofficial results sheets.

They then give the tallies to police officers, who transport them to stationhouses, where the figures are typed into computers for dissemination by The Associated Press.

Hours and hours pass before anyone has a clue who won and who lost any particular election.

You thought shifting from mechanical voting machines to electronic gizmos would speed things up.

Ha! You don't know the Board of Elections.

There are, of course, very good reasons not simply to trust the removable flash memory in these new units, and many words and hard feelings were spent across the nation from 2004-2008 to ensure that most voting machines are capable of producing some kind of paper trail. But consider how neighboring Nassau County handles the same material (again, from the editorial):

With the close of voting, poll workers have the scanners print out the same paper tapes. They also remove from inside the scanners flash drives that record the vote electronically. The workers put both the tapes and the drives into envelopes and give the envelopes to police for delivery to Nassau's election headquarters.

There, the drives are inserted into computers, the data are instantly and accurately tallied and the results announced rapidly.

It isn't clear why New York City persists in what the paper calls an "insane scissors-and-pencils counting method" but in an election year when voters could be going to the polls as many four times (April, June, September and November) the Board might need to figure out whether the initial justifications for the current tallying procedures still make sense.

Election administration is already mind-bendingly complex; absent any explanation, New York City appears to be making life more complicated - and slower - for themselves and the voters they serve.

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