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The Queens DA race shows the need for election reform

On June 25th, Tiffany Caban won the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney. The week after, she un-won. Was the election rigged? Highly unlikely. But the turn in events is arguably proof of the need for reform of the Board of Elections.

Newcomer and public defender Cabán, who had held a 1,199 vote lead, fell 16 votes behind Queens Borough President Melinda Katz after the absentee and affidavit ballots were counted last week (over 2,000 affidavit ballots were disqualified). While there is no evidence of vote tampering on either side, Caban supporters were naturally suspicious because of the partisan structure of the Board of Elections (BOE). The BOE employs one Republican and one Democratic commissioner per borough, with staffers typically connected to party insiders and elected officials. The current Queens Democratic commissioner was appointed by Katz backer and former Congressmember Joseph Crowley, leading some Caban supporters to claim the count was corrupted, despite a lack of proof.

In November, Ross Barkan wrote in City and State that the best solution to the suspicion is to make the BOE nonpartisan. Get rid of the “One Democrat, One Republican” system, have the mayor appoint a local election officer, and hire new staff just like you would typical civil servants (in other words, not through political connections). Who could call it a conspiracy then?

In other news…

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