City's Election Board Says It Can't Afford 2010 Elections

By DNAinfo Staff on July 7, 2010 6:36pm

Voters test drive one of New York's new voting machines at a public demonstration of the new machines on the Upper West Side.
Voters test drive one of New York's new voting machines at a public demonstration of the new machines on the Upper West Side.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — The City's Board of Elections says it doesn't have enough cash to pay for both the primary and general election races this year.

Unless they can find a way to close an estimated $19 million budget gap, the board has enough to fund either the September primaries or the general election — but not both, communications direction Valerie Vazquez said.

"We weren't fully funded by the City Council," she said. "We need to be made whole in order to comfortably conduct the elections as required by law."

At a commissioners' meeting Tuesday, finance officer John Ward said that the shortfall represents $9 million in personnel costs and another $10 million in other expenses, including transporting the city's new federally-mandated voting machines to and from polling places, City Hall newspaper reported.

Deputy Executive Director George Gonzalez told the board he plans to beg the city for the extra cash, the paper said.

“When you threaten them with canceling an event, the monies come through — so I’m not losing any sleep over that,” he reportedly said.

But a mayor's office spokesman dismissed the cries, saying this isn't the first time the Board of Elections has raised red flags.

"This sounds an awful lot like when they said they had no money to pay poll workers at the end of last year and we noted the funding was in place. Then suddenly, when it came time to pay the workers, they found the money to do so," spokesman Marc LaVorgna said.

"This is no different. This funding is in place for the board to carry out its responsibilities and it should do so."

In 2009, the Board said it didn't have enough money to pay 30,000 poll workers because of an unbudgeted runoff election, the Daily News reported at the time.

Though the city provides reimbursements to cover run-off costs, the Board said it didn't have the cash on hand, the workers had to wait until December to receive their pay, the News said.

The budget woes come just as the board is struggling to select a new executive director to replace Marcus Cederqvist, who resigned earlier this year. Tensions at the meeting were high as members chastised each other for not having a contingency plan, City Hall said.

Still, John Conklin, communications director for the New York State Board of Elections, which oversees and assists the city's board, said he isn't concerned.

"This is a recurring issue with a lot of local boards where they feel their locality under-funds them," he said.

"New York City's never missed an election and I'm sure that they'll be able to carry out both."

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