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Elex board pleads for 15M boost
by Frank Lombardi
Daily News City Hall Bureau
March 8, 2005
City election officials want a $15 million budget boost to gear up for this year's election and a possible switch to electronic voting machines next year.
The Board of Elections' current budget is $75.4 million, but Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a $2 million cut for the new budget year, which starts July 1.
John Ravitz, the board's executive director, argued for increased funding during a budget hearing yesterday by the City Council's Governmental Operations Committee.
Ravitz was defensive about his agency's handling of last year's general election, which saw many voters complain of long lines, confusion at polling places and a breakdown of the board's phone bank and Web site. Ravitz blamed those problems largely on the mayor's and City Council's denying the board additional funds in the two prior budgets.
"If the board had received those funds from the city, many of the technical problems that I just described could have been avoided," Ravitz said.
Part of the $15 million hike requested by Ravitz would fund a $1 million improvement of the board's Web site. An additional $885,000 would fund the completion of a backup phone bank operation on Staten Island.
The board also is going ahead with an alternative plan for Election Day use of phone bank and computer systems operated by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which runs the city's 311 system.
And $10.1 million of the additional $15 million sought by the board would be for gearing up for a conversion to electronic voting machines for the 2006 elections.
For the past two years, a legislative logjam in Albany has delayed the conversion, which would be largely funded from federal revenues. Ravitz said Albany legislators could resolve the issue this year.
Council officials seemed receptive to the board's budget request. Councilman Philip Reed (D-Manhattan) said the treatment of the board by Bloomberg and previous mayors "borders on the criminal."
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