Board of Elections way understaffed at large-volume early voting sites

The embattled city Board of Elections mismanaged key facets of its early voting program, The Post has learned, including allocating ballot scanners with little regard for demand and stuffing so many voters into balloting sites that it overwhelmed its system.

The examination of the BOE’s preparations comes as thousands of New York City voters again faced hours-long lines Wednesday to cast their votes in the hotly contested 2020 general election, giving the patronage-ladened agency its latest black eye.

Take two locations in Brooklyn: The BOE only sent five ballot scanners to the New York City College of Technology on Jay Street, even though it assigned more than 60,000 voters to the site for early voting. And Barclay’s Center was allocated the same number of scanners, despite being the early voting spot for another 32,000.

That pattern repeats in Manhattan. The Board of Elections provided only five scanners to the early voting polling site at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in SoHo, despite assigning it nearly 81,000 voters — roughly one scanner per 16,000 voters.

Just a seven-minute walk away, BOE also set up its smallest early voting polling site in the city at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts near Washington Square Park. However, officials set up three scanners for the 8,300 voters who can use the site — roughly one scanner for every 2,800 voters.

The Post sent reporters to 15 early voting sites in the two boroughs and found the scanners were unevenly distributed and that even busiest sites had no more than seven such devices.

“It makes no sense, it shows you how poor their planning is and how unprepared they were for people to use early voting,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of the good-government group Reinvent Albany. “I think the BOE has completely misallocated resources and failed to the simple math to figure out how many poll books and scanners it needs based on the number of likely voters.”

That’s just the tip of the Board of Elections’ problems when it comes to early voting, one top state election official told The Post.

The BOE’s $24 million electronic poll book system depends on a wireless network system that can only manage up to eight tablet computers and ballot printers at each polling site — a factor officials did not seem to take into account as they assigned 100,000 voters to individual polling locations.

“The check-in is where the choke point is. You can only process so many voters,” said Doug Kellner, the co-chairman of the state Board of Elections, which provides limited oversight of its troubled city affiliate.

Adding to the backup, Kellner said, it takes city poll workers roughly two minutes to check in each voter — looking up their name, having the voter sign, comparing the signature to that on file and then printing out a ballot keyed to their unique credentials —  while local election officials said they were planning on getting it done in 30 seconds.

Kellner’s remarks and the Post’s examination came just hours after the city’s independent Campaign Finance Board obtained and published statistics that showed the city BOE assigned more than 100,000 voters to some early voting locations and fewer than 20,000 voters to others.

Under New York state’s constitution, the Board of Elections is run by a 10-person board selected by the Democratic and Republican parties in each of the five boroughs.

The Mayor and City Council have little leverage to demand change on the largely patronage appointments and consequent operations.

Defenders say the setup, which dates back to the era of Tammany Hall, provides a natural check and balance to prevent one party from abusing the elections system.

The BOE’s legions of critics say putting the parties in charge has turned the BOE into a patronage-laden agency that’s better at providing jobs to the friends and family of elected officials than running elections — leading to scandal after scandal.

Just this election cycle:

A spokeswoman for the Board of Elections did not return a request from comment.

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