NYC Election Official Blames Computers for Voting Chaos
(Bloomberg) -- The president of New York City’s election board said he still hadn’t been briefed on why local voting officials erroneously counted mayoral test ballots alongside real results in a fiasco that left the count in turmoil.
“Yes, this was a problem, and it shouldn’t have happened, but before you start throwing blame around, let’s find out what did happen,” board president Frederic Umane said in an interview Wednesday.
The Board of Elections on Tuesday retracted preliminary results of the mayoral race after finding discrepancies. It said it would republish corrected results Wednesday, without providing an exact time. The data had showed front-runner Eric Adams holding a lead, while Kathryn Garcia overtook Maya Wiley for second place.
Umane is the president of the city’s elections board, an administrative body of 10 commissioners -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- who appoint a bipartisan staff to oversee the daily activities of its offices.
In the interview Wednesday, Umane cast blame on the software system behind the ranked-choice vote count that the city is using for the first time. Previous special elections for City Council races were tallied by hand.
“You know what they say about computer programs, ‘with computers, it’s garbage in, garbage out,”’ he said. “We are going to cull out the inappropriate test ballots and re-run the program.”
Umane, a Republican from Manhattan, said he lacked a full accounting of the mistakes because of the way the board is structured.
“The commissioners sit on top of a pyramid; we got the numbers the same time everyone did yesterday -- if not afterward,” Umane said. “Right now I know about as much as you do.’
Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan, an attorney and former board commissioner himself, has been out ill for the past two months, so the agency has been operating without a daily top manager, Umane said. Ryan didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement Wednesday on the debacle, saying, “yet again, the fundamental structural flaws of the Board of Elections are on display.”
De Blasio, a longtime critic of the agency, is calling for a complete recanvass of the vote count and an explanation of what went wrong.
The Adams and Garcia campaigns filed petitions for court oversight of the election count and asked for a judge to review ballots.
Umane discounted criticisms of the city’s board of elections’ partisan patronage, which has led to ethics violations, faulty absentee ballots, machine breakdowns and long lines at polling places during his tenure.
“Some of the articles that have been written recently are unfair,” he said.
“Obviously this was a very bad error that was made and that it should have been detected,” Umane said. “It wasn’t a few votes, it was 135,000. Someone should have noticed that. It was a careless error that should not have occurred.”
“Until we do know what happened, it’s easy to throw cheap shots on an agency that’s been dealing with Covid and everything else,” Umane said.
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