Politicians slammed The Board of Elections yesterday for the confusion, malfunctions and disorder that defined the debut of the city's new optical scanning voting machines on Primary Day. And along with the public shaming of board director George Gonzalez, new revelations came to light about why so much went sideways that day. Take this, for instance: about 80 polling places at public schools opened late after long delays. Why? Well, for starters, Gonzalez didn't e-mail school administrators to request that custodians come in early to open the schools until 5:36 p.m. the night before the frickin' election!
In the e-mail, obtained by City Room, Gonzalez writes Salvatore Calderone, the director of field operations for the New York City school system, and apologizes "for sending this to you at such short notice" and requests that the custodians report at 5 a.m. Of course, by the time Gonzalez got around to making the request, schools were closed and most administrators and custodians were gone for the day. Delays were also attributed to police not having keys to open the building, and the new voting machines arriving late.
Oh well; as Gonzalez pointed out yesterday, "Most of the more than 375,000 enrolled voters who came out to vote were able to cast votes and those votes have been accurately counted." To which Councilmember Peter Vallone sarcastically replied, "I should hope so...That’s a pretty low bar to set, and that’s a good standard for an emerging democracy maybe, but not the capital of the democratic world." Vallone was also incredulous that many of the poll workers who failed their written test were still allowed to work at the polls, and some received no training at all. "Clearly you have a test that doesn't mean anything if you can fail it and are appointed right back again to fill a vacancy," said Vallone, according to WNYC.
At yesterday's hearing, Gonzalez blamed the problems on a lack of funding and complained that he didn't have the money to hire enough staff. The Daily Politics reports that Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the lack-of-money problem, "an excuse for poor performance" and "simply a way to skirt responsibility... Now you can say that's wrong. You can say they should give you the money up front, but there is no evidence that the Office of Management and Budget has not paid the Board of Election's bills."
It will be fun to see how the Board of Elections handles the higher voter turnout for the General Election on November 2nd. The 30,000 poll workers across the city will have to rely on their on-the job training last month—because it would cost $3 million, they won't be given another training class. But 1,300 "coordinators" will receive a "briefing" about helping the poll workers perform better! And maybe Gonzalez can tie a piece of string around his finger to remind him about the custodians coming in early.