Last month’s closely-watched primary between Rep. Charles Rangel and challenger Adriano Espaillat was marred by wildly inaccurate election-night returns, bringing heaps of criticism on the city’s Board of Elections. Now, the board is taking steps it says will prevent those mistakes from happening again. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It was a high-profile embarrassment. Election-night returns showed Rep. Charles Rangel ahead by 20 points when, in fact, he ultimately edged out State Sen. Adriano Espaillat by just two points. So the city’s embattled Board of Elections is aiming to avoid a repeat by changing the way it tabulates election-night results.
“What it’s going to avoid is the element of human error,” said Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco.
Polanco advocated for the change. Despite the old lever machines being replaced by electronic machines in 2010, preliminary results are reported using a tedious process that involved tallying numbers by hand.
“We take those slips and we give them over to someone else at the NYPD. NYPD hands them over to another person who’s going to do data entry, thereby having another element of human error present. We’ve eliminated that,” Polanco said.
Now, memory cards from the voting machines will be taken to police precincts and the results uploaded immediately, with $300,000 being used to buy 150 new, specially-equipped laptops. The change is expected to be in place for state legislative primaries in September.
Some board members believed the change was impermissible under state election law but with the blessing of the state Board of Elections, they approved the change unanimously on Tuesday.
“Other voices came forward and looked at the election law and saw that while it was not necessarily required, it was permissible,” said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union.
Board members are now looking at wireless transmission that would allow for virtually instantaneous election results. But that would require changing state law and is likely years away.