While many New Yorkers may be fending off a nervous breakdown, one of the city's top elections officials is feeling frisky and flip this Election Day. Earlier this morning, NYC Board of Elections Secretary Frank Umane dropped in on the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, where he glad-handed voters and repeatedly posed with an upward-facing "Vote" arrow positioned between his four outer fingers. (Get it? GET IT!?)

“Who was that guy?” wondered one young poll worker, who had nodded politely as Umane and a giggling BOE lawyer sought her approval for their edgy prop comedy routine. This went on for several minutes.

Umane, the Republican Commissioner for Manhattan, is the longest-serving member of the city's election board. The long-embattled agency earned the rage of New Yorkers yet again this year, after sending out thousands of erroneously printed absentee ballots, overseeing hours-long lines during early voting, and assigning voters to polling sites without apparent regard for the capacity of each location — among other blunders.

In a short interview with Gothamist, Umane defended the board's actions, chalking up recent issues to the coronavirus pandemic, while pushing back on the agency's reputation as a patronage mill brimming with nepotism and incompetence.

"The bipartisan nature of the board keeps everybody honest," he said. "If you had the ability to pay people more, then we could get potentially get higher quality people, and we would be able to perhaps do better. Not to say that the hardworking people at the board are not doing a good job."

After reports of widespread voter disenfranchisement in 2016, Mayor de Blasio proposed giving the agency $20 million to improve poll worker training and hire an outside consultant — an offer the commissioners declined.

There are 10 commissioners on the elections board — one Democrat and one Republican from each borough — chosen by the heads of county parties. Within the bounds of state law, the board is largely free to run elections as they see fit.

Asked about the colossal ballot error, which left as many as 100,000 Brooklyn residents with the wrong name and address printed on the return envelope, Umane explained: "It was a little dislocating and confusing for some of the voters, but unfortunately mistakes happen."

He said he was not aware of reports that the BOE's online absentee ballot tracker had left some New Yorkers unsure about the status of their vote on the eve of election night. "Because there are a million [absentee ballots], there may be a few that are not properly processed or something," he conceded.

Issues during the June primary, the BOE commissioner said, should take into account that hundreds of election workers were unable to work during the COVID crisis. By contrast, a record number of New Yorkers had signed up to be poll workers in the general election, he added.

Just as they did with early voting, the elections board has unevenly assigned voters to poll sites across the city. Nearly 20,000 Manhattanites were told to cast ballots at the High School of Art and Design on East 56th Street, while just shy of 700 were assigned to the SUNY Global Center just a block away.

A poll worker told Gothamist that the High School of Art and Design was "jam-packed" on Tuesday morning, with a line wrapping around the block. By the time of the BOE's 10:00 a.m. visit, the line was much smaller, and voters reported few problems.

Umane acknowledged there were a few poll sites that didn't open on time — something he attributed to the NYPD's lateness in bringing keys, but said that the day appeared to be running smoothly overall.

"We try to get 100 percent all the time, sometimes there’s a little bit that falls down, and that’s the stuff that gets written up," he added, then went back to playing with his sign.