The Shame of New York

In this presidential year, the election systems of swing states like Florida are being subjected to considerable scrutiny. Other states' systems, which may be just as troubled but unlikely to produce a crisis in the presidential vote count, are being ignored. New York, in particular, has one of the nation's most dysfunctional, opaque and patronage-ridden structures for running elections. It needs an overhaul, starting with the New York State Board of Elections, which should be dismantled.

The State Board of Elections is a case of noble intentions gone terribly awry. In an effort to put elections above politics, it was made bipartisan, with two Republican commissioners and two Democrats. But this has simply led to a constant war to subvert the structure and gain partisan advantage.Gov. George Pataki recently waited eight months before reappointing one Democratic commissioner, a step that should be automatic. In the interim, his party had the upper hand. The board's top two staff positions are supposed to be split by the two parties. But the position of executive director has been kept vacant for a year, allowing the deputy executive director, a Republican, to run the agency. Democrats have not been blameless in this feud. They have tried to take advantage of a peculiar glitch in the law that allows Democratic chairmen of the board to hold their positions more than twice as long as Republicans


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