With Election Day just a week away, the head of the city’s embattled Board of Elections was fired today following a series of missteps with new voting machines and other procedures. The firing of George Gonzalez, the executive director, occurred after a meeting of the 10-member board in Lower Manhattan. The vote was 6 to 4.
Election officials emphasized that the change would have no impact on the elections next week, when New Yorkers are expected to turn out in much bigger numbers than the Sept. 14 primary to vote for governor, attorney general and comptroller, as well as members of the Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But the move suggests that the board hopes to move beyond a barrage of criticism of the board that began almost immediately after the polls opened for the primary election.
With New Yorkers confronting new electronic voting machines for the first time, some polls opened as much as three hours late because they had not received the scanners needed to read paper ballots. Some machines malfunctioned. And some polling sites reported a shortage of manila folders to hold the ballots to guarantee privacy.
Even before the voting had concluded, a visibly irritated Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the problems “a royal screw-up.”
A day after the machines’ inaugural run, city election officials conceded that the problems were due, in part, to inadequate preparation, but they said the city was trying to abide by requirements imposed by the state.
By the time Mr. Gonzalez made his first public appearance to discuss what happened, though, he struck a more defiant tone. At a hearing on Sept. 29 held by the State Senate Elections Committee, he graded the board’s performance as “fair” and insisted that there were only “minimal difficulties.” He also took issue with news media accounts depicting “a day of chaos” and said, bluntly, that “simply put, that portrayal is incorrect.”