Thursday, September 2, 2010

Citizens Test Drive New Voting Machine by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Jack Marotta of Howard Beach tries out a DS200 voting machine during a demonstration Thursday in Howard Beach. PHOTO BY STEPHEN GEFFON

There were questions and concerns from a group of about 60 Howard Beach residents at a demonstration of the new electronic voting machines last week.

The event was conducted by the Board of Elections at the Old Mill Yacht Club on Cross Bay Boulevard in order to educate voters on how to use the new optical scan voting machine.

Some of the attendees’ questions concerned the system’s perceived complexity and voter privacy. BOE staffers assured the attendees that the system was designed to give voters the utmost level of privacy during elections.

Representatives also explained that the machines will recognize if there is a mistake on the ballot and give the voter the option to either reject the ballot and get another opportunity to cast a vote or accept the vote “as is.”

Earlier this summer, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP and the Working Families Party, along with other groups, challenging how the new system responds to “over-voting” when voters cast too many votes in a single race. The old machines physically prevented that from happening. That lawsuit is still being reviewed in court.

The new optical scan voting machines will be in place for the Sept. 14 primary and the Nov. 2 general election, replacing the old machines with the familiar red levers, used in city polling places for about half a century.

Under the new system, voters will receive paper ballots and use pens to color in ovals to mark their choices, reminiscent of college entrance tests. Voters will then feed their ballots into an optical scanner that records their votes. The scanner will take only a few seconds for most voters.

Those who attended the BOE demonstration received practice paper ballots that allowed them to choose from various fruits, in lieu of candidates’ names, to get a sense of how the new machines operate.

Ozone Park resident David Quintana said he found the voting process a lot simpler than people make it out to be. “I think people are afraid of it for no purpose at all,” he said. “I think it’s going to go very smoothly in November.”

Mary Loraglia of Howard Beach disagreed, saying, “I think it’s going to be complete chaos.”

PS 63 poll worker Maria Provisiero of Ozone Park, who along with other poll workers received comprehensive training, believed the new voting machines are easier to use.

Ozone Park resident Lou Mascaro also gave the new machines a thumbs up. “I’m glad I came because on Election Day I would have been a little nervous,” Mascaro said.

Robert Drake of Howard Beach said he was upset that trees would have to be cut down to make the paper ballots, and had several questions about them.

“What are they going to do with these ballots?” he asked. “How long are they going to keep them? Where are they going to store them?”

The BOE has conducted 103 voter training sessions — at various community events and senior centers — that have reached 6,000 voters, officials said.

The new voting machines are the result of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that mandated new voting systems after the confusion over ballots in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. New York is the last state to replace all old voting machines.

BOE Commissioner Judith Stupp said the new voting process will be very simple. “I think it’s going to go very well on Election Day,” said Stupp. “I’m very confident.”

For more information on the new voting machines, visit or call 866-VOTE-NYC.