NEW YORK—When Mayor Michael Bloomberg cast his ballot Tuesday, he, like many voters around the city, waited 45 minutes to cast his ballot. While Bloomberg said it wasn’t “the worst thing that ever happened in my life,” he saw firsthand the need for a systematic reform in the city’s voting system.
The mayor placed the majority of the blame on the New York City Board of Elections, the body who is responsible for administering the election in the city.
“There is no reason to have a system like we have, administered like we have it,” the mayor said at a press conference Wednesday.
“We don’t have a system for the 21st century. I think that is clear and it is just a disgrace,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said he could not understand how nearly everything we use is controlled by a computer, but we still vote by paper.
“I share his pain about this system of voting on paper being archaic,” said New York City Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco during a phone interview. “I agree. And I am sure many of my fellow commissioners on the board would probably agree as well.”
Hurricane Sandy complicated what was already expected to be a hectic day at the polls. With some poll sites damaged, Polanco said the board worked with the mayor’s office and the governor’s office to get new polling sites up and operational, but the last minute executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowing anyone to vote at any polling site complicated matters and left little time to make adjustments.
“That executive order put stress on our system because now we had to open up for five times as many voters at a poll site,” Polanco said.
He said he did not want to make excuses, but explain what happened. He also wanted to assure voters the board would make adjustments for the next election. “As a board we are going to research and analyze what happened on Tuesday. We are going to see where we were inefficient and address those issues,” Polanco said.
Bloomberg said he believes early voting would help quell the crowds, but the law would need to change for the BOE to implement that.
“I cannot sit here and have elected officials decide they are going to wash their hands of the election day in New York City and the long lines that transpire,” Polanco said. “It wouldn’t be fair for me to sit here and allow for finger pointing to happen when in fact we have been working together this entire time.”
Polanco invited elected officials to propose a bill regarding early voting; something he claims has not been done.
The mayor also criticized the board for its organization. The board is made up of four Democrats and four Republicans, even though a third of voters do not identify with either party. He said that those voters get left out. He also made a dig about the board not having an executive director for two years.
Polanco said the criticism regarding an executive director was fair. “We should have an executive director by now,” Polanco said. “We are looking, but we haven’t found them. We have to make sure we make the decision soon.”
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