BOE fires director over Bell/Wills ballot mixup – QNS.com

BOE fires director over Bell/Wills ballot mixup

George Gonzalez was fired by the Board of Elections. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Ivan Pereira

The head of the city Board of Elections has been removed from office Tuesday over a series of errors that have occurred on his watch, including the confusing ballot that was almost used in the special election to replace the late City Councilman Thomas White.

Executive Director George Gonzalez was voted out by six of the board’s 10 commissioners in a meeting that took place around 2 p.m., the BOE said. The office has come under fire from candidates in the non-partisan election for the 28th Council District post after it originally listed the candidates horizontally on the ballot and made it appear that they were not Democrats.

Gonzalez took responsibility for designing the ballot, according to the New York Post.

A spokeswoman for the BOE said there were four abstentions during the vote. Deputy Executive Director Dawn Sandow and Administrative Manager Pamela Green Perkins will handle Gonzalez’s duties for the time being, according to the spokeswoman.

In the fall, the BOE was criticized by the mayor for failing to properly implement its new electronic ballot system that confused voters and even some poll workers. The error in the southeast Queens special election nearly caused similar confusion.

The original 28th Council District ballot appeared to have given Nicole Paultre-Bell an advantage over her six opponents since she was listed under the same vertical row as Democrats running in other races. The ballot was redesigned so that each candidate appeared in the appropriate column, according to BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.

Paultre-Bell’s campaign manager, Celeste Morris, acknowledged that the error was serious, but maintained that voters were smart enough to know where their candidates stand.

Ruben Wills, a Democrat whose name was lined up vertically under the same row as Republicans in other races, however, said the BOE’s error was unacceptable. In a statement, he said Gonzalez’s removal was a step in the right direction for a smooth election.

“Since the beginning of George Gonzalez’s tenure, the NYC Board of Elections has been plagued with a myriad of issues, including voter disenfranchisement and suppression as well as the misuse of taxpayer dollars and dubious decisions without the authority of the commissioners. Free and fair elections go to the heart of our democracy,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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