Friday, June 06, 2008

Tell Us More

More information please! There are many ways for New Yorkers to judge how well our elections are working, and where we might improve: we can look at the rate of citizens of voting age that are registered, the percentage of registered voters who vote, and how many of those votes are counted. But for basic things, like how well machines work and how well polling places are staffed, much of the information we get is anecdotal: long lines at polling stations, tales of confused poll workers or machines that have broken down.

One of the best ways to analyze election performance is to review comprehensive data provided by local boards of election in their "annual reports." These reports are legally mandated, but not every board has done a good job of getting them out.

Case in point: the New York City Board of Elections. To their credit, and the credit of their new Executive Director Marcus Cedarqvist, we recently received their Annual Report for 2006. Unfortunately, this report did not have all the information we would have liked to see.

This week, the Women's City Club of New York, the Brennan Center and several other good government groups sent a letter to the New York City Board asking it to start providing more information to the public -- things like the number of poll workers assigned in each election, the number of those who attended city poll worker trainings, the number and type of interpreters by language deployed on Election Day, the number of machine failures, and the number and category of calls to the city board's help line.

This isn't sexy stuff, but it represents one of the best ways for the public to get a sense of how our elections are being run, and where we might want to see changes.

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