Friday, January 29, 2010

New Voting Machines to Debut in September by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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When you go to the polls for the September primaries the old Shoup 3.2 mechanical voting machine, used in city polling places for about half a century, will be gone, replaced by Elections Systems & Software’s DS200 Scanner and the AutoMark Ballot Marking Device.

ES&S will provide 5,000 to 7,000 voting machines to the city under a $50 million contract.

The City Board of Elections made its selection after reviewing several options and holding public hearings.

“This change is part of the City of New York’s compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which mandated, among other requirements, the replacement of lever machines and implementation of voting systems with a permanent paper record,” the BOE said in a statement.

The ES&S DS200 scanner is a portable electronic voting system that uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally the results. It allows for paper ballots to be immediately tabulated at the poll site and notifies voters of any errors, allowing them to immediately correct mistakes.

HAVA was passed after the disputed 2000 presidential election, in which poll workers from the two parties could not agree on which ballots should count and which should not.

The ES&S AutoMARK is a ballot marking device which allows any voter, including those with disabilities, to mark a paper ballot privately and independently by using either its touch screen, Braille-enhanced keypad, rocker paddle or sip and puff device, which registers a vote by detecting whether a voter is sucking in or breathing out. Voters may view the ballot on an adjustable screen or may listen to an audio ballot over headphones.

According to the city BOE, the DS200 complies with New York State Election Law, State BOE regulations, and the federal Elections Assistance Commission 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.

Elected officials in south Queens weighed in on the new technology.

“I look forward to and welcome the new voting machines in New York City, and I am hopeful that they will be a great improvement over the machines of years past,” said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park). “However, it is vital we ensure that poll workers are knowledgeable about these new machines since they will be the ones who are instructing voters.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., (D-Howard Beach), who is chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, said in a statement, “These machines have been tested harder and subjected to more requirements than any system in the nation, and the voters of the State of New York should feel confident that they will produce accurate and reliable results.”

Addabbo continued, “The testimony and reports we received, and the audits of the results produced by the machines, revealed that they accurately recorded and reported ballot selections made by voters. The optical scan technology they use also preserves voters ballots, commonly referred to as a ‘paper trail,’ ensuring the ability to conduct an accurate recount as necessary.”

However, according to published reports, some election experts remain concerned about the possibility of accidental “overvotes,” when, for instance, someone fills in ovals for two candidates rather than one, which is something that the levers machines do not allow. Some are also concerned that the design of the paper ballots might be too confusing or hard to read and that poll workers may not understand how the machine works and that the vote-counting function can be manipulated.

One citizens’ group, the Election Transparency Coalition, is preparing to file a lawsuit against the state to halt the transition to the new machines.

For more information on the new voting system, call 866-VOTE-NYC (868-3692) or visit the board’s website at

Photo caption: The new ES&S DS200 scanner, which debuts in September 2010, uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally results. PHOTO COURTESY NYC BOARD OF ELECTIONS