Sunday, March 8, 2009

Staten Island Paper Ballots - a Follow-up

Rose/Mitchell City Council Election

Last week we posted a story about the North Shore City Council special election recount of paper ballots scheduled for this past Wednesday on Staten Island. The Court said that candidate Tabacco should go back on the ballot. The Election Commission said it was too late to reprogram the lever machines; the election would use paper ballots.

Here are some telling comments from Staten Island Advance columnist Tom Wrobleski's polit.bureau as these Staten Island politicos reflect on the problems

Strictly Political for March 8, 2009 - SILive: Island Politics: "'They should have just put Tabacco on the ballot in the machine, [prior to the court ruling]' Lavelle said. 'The simplest way was to have him on there and then lock the lever so nobody could pull it for him.'

Attorney Marty Connor, a Democrat who used to represent part of the Island in the state Senate, agreed.

'There's no way to tamper with those machines without leaving a trace,' said Connor, the former Senate minority leader who is lawyering for Mitchell during the recount process.

Having the paper ballots also brought another interesting dynamic into play: What happens if the number of ballots in an election district is greater than the number of signatures in the voter books at the poll site?

Simple: BOE workers randomly remove ballots, in the presence campaign witnesses, so the numbers match up.

In a positively Colonial era procedure, seven ballots were removed from 'overvoted' districts during the first day of the recount.

The ballots were shuffled by hand like playing cards and placed in a plastic bin. Then Republican and Democratic BOE officials turned their backs and took turns removing ballots.

The ballots were folded without being examined and sealed in an envelope."
Wrobleski had an earlier column, Recount Notebook, which tells a fascinating recount story. But since this blog is focused on the benefits of keeping our levers, let me share these comments from his column:

While occasionally mind-numbing, the process is a good "spring training" for what's coming down the line.

When the city begins using optical-scanning machines sometime in the near future, paper ballots marked by voters in pen will be the standard. No longer will votes use the familiar lever machines.

The difference is that that ballots will be tabulated by an optical-scanning machine, like those used to grade standardized tests.

Still, there could come a time when the individual paper ballots in a tight election might have to be recounted by hand.

Officials and other observers here are dreading the possibility that a recount might have to be done in a mayoral, congressional or borough presidential race, where there could be tens of thousands of ballots in the pool.

Well, it took four days to recount the 11,177 votes cast. Unofficially, Ken Mitchell won the City Council race by 342 votes . 51 votes were removed due to overvotes or other reasons. It becomes official when the results are reported to the Supreme Court Justice next Wednesday.

Four days for 11,000 ballots. Shouldn't we just keep our levers?

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