Tuesday is turning into “bash the BOE day” with the New York Times editorial page and many others blasting the city’s Board of Elections for its difficulty getting an accurate count for the few votes cast in last week’s Congressional primary in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The Times says that the board does not want to make full use of the vote-counting computers because it is more interested in protecting patronage jobs. That appears to be the most likely explanation, but let’s explore some possible alternatives.
Could the board just be after a little fun and excitement? If there was a reliable count last week on election night, we’d have been certain whether or not Congressman Charlie Rangel staved off his strongest challenge in four decades by beating State Sen. Adriano Espaillat in the Democratic primary. We thought we were sure last Tuesday night that Rangel won handily, but we soon learned that many votes had not been counted in election districts where Espaillat had strong support.
Now we have the drama of Rangel, the former powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, declaring victory only to have it cast in doubt. If Rangel is certified the winner, his victory will be that much sweeter, and if Espaillat prevails in a recount, the heartache of Rangel’s fall would be compelling.
It’s stuff worthy of an HBO movie. Maybe the elections board figures a cliffhanger is needed to get more voters to come out in future elections.
Or maybe the BOE is feeling nostalgic for the not so olden days of the creaky voting machine levers. The machines were finally scrapped in 2010 in part because they increased the chances of human error.
At the end of the election night, often in dimly lit rooms, weary Board of Election workers would peer into the small boxes next to each name to look for the number of votes each candidate got at that machine. It was common for a number such as 150 for example, to be recorded as 50. So the election night return numbers typically were adjusted a week later when the machines were reexamined.
It all might be a little funny if there wasn’t the pesky problem that we may not be sure if the people of the 13th Congressional District will end up getting the representative the voters chose last week.
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