The New York Daily News has weighed in on the ongoing saga of the 27th State Senate District special election, in which the two candidates wound up just a handful of votes apart (latest count has Republican David Storobin up by 118), and the Board of Elections’ anachronistic procedures turning it into a long, tedious slog.
For starters, the Board of Elections is tossing out votes on cruddy technicalities – a fine procedure when the margins are more vast, but in a neck-and-neck race, every vote counts. They’re also refusing to count paper ballots until they receive a court order.
Contrary to all fairness and equality — not to mention common sense — the board’s standard operating procedure uses differing approaches for determining whether a vote is validly cast.
When a voter fills in an oval beside a candidate’s name, the vote will be counted either by a scanner, assuming the machine works correctly, or by the board as workers inspect absentee ballots.
When a voter leaves an oval blank, but, say, circles a candidate’s name, the vote won’t be counted by a scanner — but will be counted if the board finds such a marking on an absentee ballot.
This probably happened in the Storobin-Fidler battle. The scanner tally lists 42 ballots on which voters filled in no choice — unlikely, as those people were dedicated enough to go to the polls to make a choice in the only race on the ballot.
Odds are they made a selection without filling in an oval. Their votes are, for now, lost, while similarly cast absentee ballots will be included. In such a supertight race, 42 ballots could be decisive.
The board will inspect all the paper ballots only if the margin ends up below .5%. With a total tally of about 21,000, that comes out to roughly anything more than 105 votes. Now, the preliminary margin is 118 votes. At that level, there would be no visual ballot inspection without a court order.
This is insanity.
Finally, whatever comes out of this mess, the Daily News doesn’t think anyone should trust the Board’s numbers, given that they already bungled the count on election night. They suggest the candidates file a request under the Freedom of Information Law for photos of each of the scanned ballots to ensure the numbers match.
We agree. New York City’s Board of Elections, proven to be inept time and time again, are not to be trusted. Lax enforcement of electioneering laws at poll sites, fouled preliminary counts and operating procedures more befitting the 17th Century than the 21st Century speak for themselves.
The NYC Board of Elections needs real reform – not fancy new gadgets they don’t know how to use – and, in this race, every ballot ought to be counted, recounted and counted again based on the voter’s intention, not a computer’s ability to read it.