Where Is The BOE Shakeup?


We are a month removed from Election Day — a day on which tens of thousands of New Yorkers were disenfranchised by long lines to vote because a little bit of rain caused a world of trouble for the city’s voting machines.

This past week we also learned, thanks to fantastic reporting by NY1, that the executive director of the city Board of Elections (BOE), Michael Ryan, has been flown around the country and put up at fancy hotels for the past few years by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) — the makers of the aforementioned voting machines. No wonder Ryan defended the machines: He’s probably got a gold junket coming up on the company’s dime as part of his “advisory board” role.

It’s a shame heads haven’t already rolled at the BOE following the despicable display on Election Night. With this added information, it’s clear Ryan needs to be fired. Honestly, the only question we have is, why is it taking so long?

The answer may lie in the dysfunctional nature of the board itself. You see, the board is basically a patronage mill for powerful political party groups — both Democrat and Republican — that scratch each other’s backs. While we are sure some of the folks at the BOE care deeply about their work and want to do what’s right when it comes to protecting voters’ rights, the agency as a whole is bankrupt. It’s such a mess that the BOE powerbrokers couldn’t even organize themselves sufficiently to fire Ryan quickly. That would have been the smart move if they wanted to hold on to their power: Pin it all on the fall guy and hope everyone forgets that the whole institution is rotten.

Instead, the BOE met this week behind closed doors, and then came out with the grand pronouncement that Ryan would no longer sit on the ES&S advisory board, essentially designating this as just a public relations problem that has now been solved. The whole thing played out like a bad scene in Veep, with the board having taped a sound machine to the wall next to the door — so reporters couldn’t hear what was being discussed inside.

Replacing Michael Ryan as executive director won’t fix the system, however. Only by exercising political courage will we be able to ensure that New Yorkers have a voting system that reflects our values — values that are based in the belief that everyone should have a voice in our democracy. State and city lawmakers need to pass sweeping reforms that will, for some, likely put their incumbency at risk.

If they won’t do so and instead yield to the political powerbrokers who have proven themselves incapable of administering elections, then they need to pay a political price.

We are 11 months away from our next Election Day, and 23 months away from an election that will likely see the largest participation in U.S. history.

The clock is ticking.