On September 29th Senator Joseph Addabbo, chair of the Senate Elections Committee held a hearing on the recent New York State primary when new paper ballot and optical scan systems were used statewide for the first time. The hearing focused on reported problems that occurred in New York City, the largest election jurisdiction in the country with almost 4.5 million registered voters. In addition to the New York City Board of Elections, others giving testimony included the New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the Brennan Center for Justice, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, NYPIRG, Commissioner Doug Kellner of the State Board of Elections and others. Senator Addabbo chaired the hearing, with Senators Bill Perkins, Liz Krueger, and Daniel Squadron also attending.
The hearings started out focusing on the principal witnesses, New York City Board of Elections Executive Director George Gonzalez, President Julie Dent, and other key staff. While acknowledging that problems did occur on Primary Day, the Board seemed particularly unwilling to accept any responsibility for them. Alternately blaming lack of funding, insufficient time to prepare, not enough staff, rigorous pre-election testing requirements, media focus on problems, the Police Department and the Mayor’s office, the Board’s testimony was remarkable in its failure to admit any blame for Primary Day problems. If the public had a nickel for every time the City Board accepted responsibility for problems during the hearing, we’d be flat broke.