Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
The counting error in New York’s mayoral primary is the last kind of screwup American democracy needed. Not right now.
Not when the whole idea of people choosing their government is on the ropes in so many ways:
- A proposal for a new national voting standard has been blocked.
- The US Department of Justice is alleging an active effort by a Southern state to let fewer Black people vote.
- Supporters of former President Donald Trump are running one sham audit of the long-over presidential election and pushing for more.
- Republican senators are openly questioning whether the republic is meant to be a democracy in the first place.
But the New York Board of Elections screwed up big time by including test data in the tally of votes released Tuesday, a mistake that was quickly discovered but that nevertheless allowed the city’s most famous former resident, the paranoid former President, to buttress his Big Lie that American democracy is fixed.
Trump jumped at the opportunity to stretch from New York’s problem to the nation’s last election. Conservative media agitators weren’t far behind.
CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Ethan Cohen and Adam Levy do an admirable job explaining what we know (or think we know) about what actually went wrong in New York.
Here it is in a nutshell: “Within hours of the new figures coming online, the board backtracked — following questions from the Adams campaign and others — and acknowledged a ‘discrepancy’ in its counting process. It subsequently removed the data from its website. Late Tuesday night, the body put out another statement, this time revealing it had mistakenly included 135,000 test vote records in the initial tally. The count will be re-run once the slate is cleared.”
Trump Organization likely to be charged this week too. And we learn all of this about the fragility of the vote count in New York the same week the New York DA is expected to charge Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, with tax crimes, perhaps part of a larger effort against Trump’s company.
These things aren’t related except for the fact that people badly need confidence in their government right now.
Instead, with the whole country watching how a new system of ranked-choice voting — billed as a way to guard against the rise of formerly fringe candidates like Trump — would work on a large scale, the agency accidentally included dummy data, throwing the entire system and these specific results into question.
One consolation. This level of dysfunction feels like a farce, not deep-state election rigging or voter fraud, like the paranoid former President has speciously alleged in the 2020 US election. But the screwup fits nicely into Trump’s conspiracy theory mindset, which feeds on mistakes and spreads mistrust in the election system like a brain-eating fungus.
A New York Times investigation before the 2020 election found the board to be full of friends and relatives of Big Apple politicos, a throwback to the spoils system or Tammany Hall rather than a professional outfit befitting the largest city in the United States.
Even before this snafu, it had botched the mailing of absentee ballots for the presidential primary, the mailing of sample ballots and had taken a shocking amount of time to count some votes.
Longtime problem. None of that led to the kind of systemic change the board clearly needs, according to CNN’s John Avlon, who has worked with the Board of Elections and served on the voter advisory commission in the past.
“Folks nationally may be scratching their heads. Folks in New York know this all too well,” he said on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday. “The New York Board of Elections is a corrupt, incompetent, patronage organization, and this should give just the latest reason it should be ripped up from the roots and totally rebuilt.”
The problem is doing that, he said, requires cooperation from state and city officials that often can be hard to attain.
What’s next? Per Krieg and Levy: “Tuesday’s count was, in itself, a dry run ahead of the final count, which will not take place for weeks, as absentee ballots are cross-checked and, in some cases, cured if voters respond to notices about minor errors.”
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