Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
The city’s Board of Elections sounded optimistic about the improved accuracy of its new election night closing procedures ahead of Thursday’s legislative election – but cautioned against hopes of speedier returns.
The board faced criticism this summer for its handling of the June 26 primary races that included the hotly contested 13th Congressional primary in which Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel barely eked out a win after more than 10 days.
“Of course there’s going to be some kinks, but I’m confident,” said Dawn Sandow, deputy executive director of the city's Board of Elections.
Under the new process, poll workers at each site will shut down the machines at the end of the night and print three copies of the machine tally reports.
During the demonstration on Monday, printing a tally report from one machine with one vote took more than a minute.
After the tally reports are printed, the machine is shut down and poll workers remove the portable memory devices, or PMDs. One copy of the tally will be posted on the wall of the polling site. The other two reports and the PMD will be placed in a yellow pouch that is then closed and sealed. All the pouches at a given polling site will be placed into a large yellow bag that also gets sealed.
The poll workers will then hand the bag to NYPD officers stationed at the site. The NYPD officers will transport the bag to the local police precinct where they will be met by four designated poll workers who will scan the bags and then begin the process of opening each pouch and uploading the election night return information on a laptop provided by the board. Those returns will then be transmitted back to the board and made available to public.
Board officials said those results should be available in approximately the same amount of time as they have been in past elections. For unofficial election night returns, that can be within a few hours of when the polls close at 9 p.m.
Under the old process, poll workers would manually add results for election district, write the total on the return of canvas and then give that information to NYPD officers who would then type the results in computers at police precincts.
John Naudus, director of the Board’s Electronic Voting Systems Department, gave the demonstration reminding those in attendance that the board was not trying to get speed out of this new process, just accuracy.
“Basically, we’re taking out all the manual effort that goes on right now,” said Naudus.
Watchdog groups plan to monitor the outcome of this election, particularly since turnout in these races is expected to be much lower than turnout in the general election in November.