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Oct 26, 2010 4:56 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

New Voting Machines Ready For First Big Test

Editor's Note:

In order to inform citizens about the new voting system of marking a paper ballot and scanning it into the new ImageCast tabulating machine now in use in Suffolk County for the November 2 election, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons has created a video that is being aired on both East Hampton Town’s LTV and Southampton Town’s SEA-TV public access channels.

The viewing schedule is available on the LTV Channel 20 and 22 website at www.ltveh.org and at the SEA-TV Channel 22 website at www.town.southampton.ny.us.

Further information is available from League president Carol Mellor at 631-537-6998.
Oct 26, 2010 4:56 PM

This Tuesday, many East End residents will use the state’s new paper ballot voting system for the first time, and election officials have acknowledged that no significant changes have been made to the system since problems with the new machines caused delays during lighter primary voting last month—other than the purchase of more than $17,000 worth of felt-tip pens.

Election officials are mainly relying on election workers who have had more experience with the new machines this time around and better informed voters to get around some of the technical hitches that tripped up some voters on primary day: jammed machines, over-voting and voters who complained of a lack of privacy in filling out their paper ballots the first time the state had used such a system in decades.

“There has not been a change to the ballots themselves since the primaries,” said Ivan Young, an assistant to the Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioners. “But many of the issues that were raised then have been addressed.”

Mr. Young said that Suffolk County actually had very few specific problems or complaints with the new machines during the primary voting, though he acknowledged that plenty of people said they preferred the old lever machines to the 18-inch paper ballots that must be fed into an optical scanner. The county has held hundreds of public demonstrations of the new voting machines since the primaries, to familiarize voters with how to mark and cast their ballots so that the machines will function smoothly and votes will be tallied accurately.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections has also stationed information kiosks at dozens of local libraries and municipal buildings, which play a 7-minute instructional videos on how to cast ballots on the new machines. The county’s website, www.suffolkvotes.com, also offers refresher instructions for voters as well as poll inspectors, Mr. Young said.

Recently, Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico highlighted two potential flaws in the system, though election officials say those problems will be eliminated or addressed on election day.

At a voting machine demonstration earlier this month Mr. Panico showed that the machines would register votes entered on plain paper photocopies of the actual ballots, which he said meant an unscrupulous voter might be able to slip more than one pre-marked ballot into the machine. Mr. Panico also said that the space for write-in candidates is too small and if voters stray beyond the half-inch wide space for writing a name it could result in an over-vote.

But election aides this week said those two particular issues should not be a problem on Election Day. Rudy Scala, a Board of Elections employee overseeing a voting machine demonstration in Mastic last week, noted that the ballots used on election day are slightly different from the ones used for demonstrations. The actual ballots will have bar codes on them and the voting machines will be programmed to scan for those markings, which will not transfer onto photocopies. They were not programmed to scan for them in demonstrations.

“And on Election Day there will be someone standing on both sides of the machine,” Mr. Scala said. “Trust me, you’ll only be able to cast one vote.”

The over-voting issue with write-in candidates is a problem, Mr. Young acknowledged but said the machine will warn a voter that they have over-voted and will give them a chance to remove their ballot and mark another or send it through.
The voting machines automatically segregate ballots with any write-in candidates for counting by hand and the over-vote registered by the machine would not nullify the actual intentions of the voter.

A variety of other steps will hopefully iron out some other problems. Election aide Stephanie Manzella said that the new ballots being printed out for next month’s election have oval spaces for the vote marks, rather than squares like on the primary ballots, because voters were less likely to make only a check mark in the ovals.

And the county has purchased thousands of felt-tip pens—1,800 dozen Paper Mate Flair pens actually, according to Tom Knobel, an assistant to the Board of Elections commissioners. The price tag for the pens was more than $17,000, Mr. Knobel said. The felt-tip pens were found to fill in the spaces on the ballots better than ball point pens or pencils, without bleeding through the paper like heavier markers like the Sharpie.

Lastly, there have been criticisms of the new ballots because propositions on the docket are printed on the back of the ballot, which voters may not notice. Mr. Scala had a suggestion for a quick fix:

“There should be a sign in the voting booths,” he said, “saying ‘Don’t forget to turn the ballot over!’”

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Voting Reform: make it easier to manipulate the results, more complicated, more prone to error, more expensive and less verifiable. Good job!
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 27, 10 6:12 PM
the captain hit the nail on the head. between voter fraud perpetrated on servicemen and women who coincidentally tend to vote republican and the numerous reports of problems with the libs' names already being checked, there are problems already. i would recommend everyone put their initials on the ballot and then 30 days post election call the board for an email scan of your voter form. to make sure it hasn't been toyed with.
By mackt (73), montauk on Oct 28, 10 7:19 AM
Republicans are headed for a blowout election win that seems certain to seize more than enough seats to knock out the progressives and unions and take control of the House.The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President obamas party.
So watch those chads the Dem's will be up to no good! I'm sure ...more
By joe hampton (3429), south hampton on Oct 28, 10 10:23 AM
Perhaps there were only five convictions for voter fraud during G.W. Bush's presidential terms IN THE UNITED STATES. Not so well reported was the scandal in Mexico in THEIR Presidential Election of that era. After Bush's second election, the only Mexican State to use the Diebold electronic voting machines (previously used in the United States) in the subsequent Mexican Presidential Election, alone among the thirty one Mexican states and the Federal District of Mexico City, was also the only ...more
By highhatsize (4185), East Quogue on Oct 28, 10 11:25 PM