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Bloomberg Bashes Elections Board as Manual Ballot Count Begins

By Colby Hamilton | September 13, 2013 11:31am | Updated on September 13, 2013 12:46pm
 Mayor Michael Bloomberg railed against the beleaguered Board of Elections in the wake of Tuesday's primary vote.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg railed against the beleaguered Board of Elections in the wake of Tuesday's primary vote.
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NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s longstanding derision for the city’s Board of Elections continued Friday, as he compared the board to the bumbling "Keystone Kops.”

“Once again, the Board of Elections just is not able to give the public the easy guaranteed reliable ways to vote,” Bloomberg said on WOR’s John Gambling Show, in the wake of this week’s primary.

Critics blame the beleaguered board for leaving the fate of the Democratic mayoral runoff in limbo pending the results of a manual ballot count. There were more than 19,000 paper ballots submitted Tuesday, including emergency ballots submitted by voters whose machines were broken — which could be enough to nudge Bill de Blasio's vote count below the 40 percent required to avoid a runoff.

Bloomberg railed against a host of what he said were problems with the Board of Elections' handling of primary day — including a poll site set aside for a single voter who never showed, a story exclusively reported by DNAinfo New York.

“They had one polling place where I think there was one registered voter,” the mayor said. “They staffed it with a machine and two poll workers, and the person who was registered had moved out of the district.”

The city's Elections Board is run by people appointed by the heads of the Republican and Democratic parties in each borough, which means the mayor's office has no direct control over it.

Mike Ryan, the board's executive director, declined to directly address Bloomberg's remarks about the board's capacity.

"There are times when there's legitimate criticism and we take a look at our internal systems, and we will change them for the better," he said.

During the radio interview Friday, Bloomberg said the board’s real problem lay with the paper ballot and electronic scanner voting system it rolled out three years ago.

“Their great sin is that they picked a system that is not able to be turned around, that I think is prone to error and even potentially corruption, because in this day and age, if you want security, you go with computers, you don't go with paper,” Bloomberg said.

Because of difficulties with the electronic voting machines, the Board of Elections revived the old lever voting machines for the primary.

Ryan defended the board's voting system.

"The voting machines were imposed upon us by an act of Congress," he said, referring to the Help America Vote Act, which used the threat of withholding federal funds to encourage states to adopt  electronic voting systems. New York was one of the last to do so.

Ryan said the state gave the city only two options to ultimately pick from for voting machines.

"We believe the system that was chosen was the better of the two systems," Ryan said. "It may not be a perfect system, but it's the system that we have to use."

The board began its official canvass of the lever machines on Friday, moving the city closer to resolution in the Democratic mayoral race, officials said. The board is expected to work through the weekend to tally the final vote from the machines in Tuesday's primary.

On Monday, the Board will begin reviewing the tens of thousands of affidavit, absentee and other paper ballots, which are expected to be counted by the end of next week.