NY City Board Approves Process Aimed at Faster Vote Results
The New York City Board of Elections approved on Tuesday a new process of reporting election-night vote totals that it said would provide the public with faster and more accurate results.
Simple, however, it is not.
Under the current procedure, at the end of the night, poll workers tally the votes from each ballot scanner by hand on so-called return-of-canvass sheets. Police officers take copies of the return-of-canvass sheets back to their precincts, where officers enter the totals into the Police Department’s computer system. The police transmit the results to The Associated Press, which then shares them with other news media outlets.
Under the new procedure, the police officers, instead of collecting the return-of-canvass sheets, will collect the memory sticks from each ballot scanner and take those back to the police precincts. There they will hand the memory sticks over to Board of Elections staff members, who will download the results into laptop computers and then transmit the data to the Police Department — which will, as before, share them with The A.P.
The commissioners said the new procedure, which they had claimed was not permitted under state election law, would avoid the inaccuracies that plagued the initial vote count in last month’s Congressional primary and prompted criticism of the board’s practices. (The City Council has scheduled a hearing next month to determine what went wrong in the initial count.)
The meeting on Tuesday, in a cramped conference room, was not without contention. At one point, a co-chairman of the State Board of Elections, Douglas A. Kellner, suggested that the city’s process of producing official results on election night — which requires poll workers to cut and collate many pages of printouts from the scanners — was “unnecessarily complicated.”
That prompted an outburst from one of the city election commissioners, Juan Carlos Polanco, from the Bronx.
“I object to that,” Mr. Polanco said, adding that the board had “interpreted the law in a manner that the counsel and commissioners thought was appropriate.”
Mr. Kellner interrupted him. “Commissioner, with all due respect, the state board has also interpreted the law,” he said, and had reached a different conclusion.
Mr. Kellner added that the city’s procedure was not illegal, simply inordinately cumbersome, “so there’s nothing we can do other than recommend that you consider a simpler procedure.”