In what Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a “royal screw-up” many voters found the new and supposedly easier voting method nothing but trouble. Although the mayor himself did not vote in Tuesday’s primaries because he is neither a registered Democrat or Republican, reports of delays and confusion reached Bloomberg, invoking his unhappy response, adding that the situation was disturbing and “completely unacceptable.”
New York is the last state to comply with federal law requiring voting to be made as simple as possible. Replacing the 80 year old “lever pulling” voting of old and switching to dot-filled ballots and scanners was easy for most voters, but for others it was a frustrating activity fraught with delays and confusion. According to the Election Protection Coalition, a non-partisan group which monitors polling places, at least 10 voting sites of the over 1300 polling places in the city experienced problems of one kind or another.
Most of the trouble seemed to be centered on setting up the polling sites, causing delays anywhere from 15 minutes to 2.5 hours. Scanners sometimes broke down, and in one case the screen flashed an error message after each vote was scanned. The Board of Elections was allotted $77 million from the city to insure the smooth transition to the new system. A disappointed Mayor Bloomberg commented that, “There is a total absence of accountability for how the board performs on Election Day because the board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York,” referring to the Democratic Party machine that ran city politics for generations before vanishing in the 1960s.
The new-fangled voting system is New York’s response to the Help America Vote Act, which itself was a response to the problematic voting in Florida during the 2000 presidential elections. HAVA’s goal was to simplify voting so as to prevent such problems like what happened in Florida, which required a costly ballot recount and whittled away at much of the trust American’s feel towards the entire electoral system. New York’s venerable lever machines were deemed not ‘simple’ to use for people with disabilities and it also offered no paper trail just in case there should be a dispute of the outcome. Hopefully there will be an improvement in performance at the next election.