Krull: NYC voting is stuck in the last century
When New Yorkers go to their polling places to vote in the mayoral primary today, they might think they've entered a time warp. Outdated pull-lever voting machines, last used four years ago, are back. Their reappearance is a fitting metaphor for the city's outdated electoral system.
The old machines were supposed to have been mothballed forever, but our stellar Board of Elections realized it was incapable of counting votes fast enough with the new electronic machines to accommodate a potential runoff. Indeed, the city's political parties seem incapable of embracing any change, lest it threaten the comfortable arrangements that define New York politics.
It's ironic that our ever-modern city is so behind the political curve. Early voting is commonplace elsewhere. But we cram it all into a single day, when incompetent poll workers create an unnecessary traffic jam of voters, who sometimes wait hours to cast a ballot, as many did last year. And while some states give candidates the option of paying a fee of a few hundred dollars to appear on the ballot, New York State requires office seekers to collect signatures.
Meanwhile, our state makes voters register at least 25 days before an election and wait months to change party registration. Why can't we switch parties at will and have same-day registration, like voters in most other states? Because the electoral system serves establishment interests.
Limiting voting to a single day and knowing who is registered weeks before an election allow the political parties to target their voters and influence turnout. Requiring candidates to circulate petitions gives political clubs -- which supply volunteers to collect signatures -- a say over who gets to run.
It's as if our politicians are stuck in the 1960s, when the pull-levers were state of the art, and Tammany Hall corruption was still in play.
Our political class wasn't always so unyielding. In the '70s, reformers curtailed the power of political bosses and the city later adopted a progressive campaign finance system. But the reformers eventually became the change-averse establishment.
New Yorkers have been left with elections that symbolize what the city's political system has become: a 20th century relic in a 21st century city.
Attorney Ben Krull, former campaign chairman of the Lexington Democratic Club, lives on the Upper East Side.