Editorial: For mayoral primary, a vote for practicality

An old voting machine is seen in Atlantic

An old voting machine is seen in Atlantic Beach. (May 11, 2010) (Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy)

The State Legislature wrapped up its session last week with a measure certain to warm the heart of every Luddite in the city who likes faxes better than email attachments and has yet to master the art of voice mail retrieval.

Lawmakers passed legislation that will allow the city's hapless Board of Elections to ignore its new $95-million electronic voting system, in use since 2010, and go back to the old lever-pull machines for one more dance -- in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, and a later runoff, if necessary.

The move is a victory for blunt practicality and a humiliation for dreamers who yearn for elections efficiently conducted and votes transparently tabulated. But it's the only sane route to take as the citywide primary draws near.

The trouble with the electronic scanner system is recounts. They require workers to sort through scanned ballot cards to decipher voter intentions. A hand recount in Brooklyn last year took 72 days. So what happens if the Sept. 10 primary results in close races that might require a runoff, which by law must be held 14 days after the primary?

It wouldn't be pretty. Now legislators say the city can use the old machines in the primary and runoff. And they shifted the runoff to Oct. 1 because of the Sukkot holiday.

Unfortunately, Albany didn't consider a long-term fix. What the city needs is a state constitutional amendment that would allow us to devise a new election board setup.

The system we're stuck with now began in 1894 -- about the time the lever-pull voting machine was invented -- when the state mandated that all election positions, from Board of Elections seats to poll watchers, must be divided equally between the two major parties. The result has been a tsunami of patronage and dysfunction spanning three centuries. Time's up -- it's gotta go.

Tags: opinion , ARTICLE , AMNY

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