Old Dog Learns New Trick: NYC to Change Election Night Tallying Procedure


[Image courtesy of vvicrew]

Earlier this week, the embattled New York City Board of Elections voted to update its Election Night counting procedures to forgo a complicated paper and pencil (and scissors!) method of tallying votes, opting instead to deliver returns using the “memory sticks” built into the City’s new optical scanners.

The substance of the change is actually unremarkable – especially the notion of using the scanners as they were designed instead of treating them as modernized lever machines – but the fact that the change was made is actually a pretty big deal.

The key, it seems, was for the Board to abandon the idea that the state legislature (which has its own challenges, as evidenced by the inability to resolve the state’s primary dates in the wake of a federal suit regarding military voters) would need to amend state law in order to revise the vote-counting procedures. New York City’s new willingness to do so in the absence of explicit instructions from Albany is a small but incredibly significant development.

Going forward, I’ll be watching to see whether this policy change is simply an isolated “quick fix” in reaction to the embarrassment of the Rangel-Espaillat primary or a harbinger of a new willingness to rethink the long list of problems confronting the NYCBOE.

If nothing else this policy change is evidence that, under the right circumstances, the Board is willing to look beyond “the way it’s always been done.” You can bet that the growing chorus of calls for New York’s old dog to learn some (other) new tricks is only going to intensify for the remainder of 2012 and beyond.

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