New York’s new voting machines didn’t do too well in their debut on the New York political stage. If it were a Broadway play, this premier performance could be titled “Chaos."
Some polling places opened up hours late. Poorly trained election workers struggled with malfunctioning machines. Voters waited for machines to be fixed and, in many cases, had to give up their chance to vote to get to work on time.
Mayor Bloomberg was right on target when he described the situation as “a royal screwup.” A spokeswoman for the Board of Elections said every machine in 1,358 polling places had been tested in advance. But the Board of Elections couldn’t explain the reason for the “screwup.”
The very structure of the board is suspect. There are 10 commissioners, five from each of the major political parties, appointed by the City Council. This body, whose origins are about as partisan as you can get, is empowered to ensure that fair elections are held.
Bloomberg says “there is a total absence of accountability for how the board performed on Election Day because the board is a remnant of the days when Tammany Hall ran New York," reported the New York Times.
To empower the major parties or their bosses to supervise elections seems contrary to common sense. In ancient Greece, the philosopher Plato envisioned a political system where a special class of rulers would be trained without personal ties to anyone who might try to influence them. The basic idea: to keep the philosopher-rulers uncorrupted---with sole devotion to the general good.
We’re a long way from that now. There’s got to be a way to empower the voters and keep the election process here efficient and honest.
Before the general election in November, the city Board of Elections needs to take steps to improve the situation. If there are major foul-ups and delays in November, the commissioners should resign -- or the Council should fire them.