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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mixed Reviews for New Voting Machines

A woman tests out a new ballot scanning machine in Bedford Park
last month. (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)
 So far, there's been both good and bad feedback about the Board of Election's new voting system that debuted today--a paper ballot and scanner to replace the traditional lever machines, which have been used in New York since the 1960s.

Mayor Bloomberg said this morning that the BOE's handling of the new system was "a royal screw-up," and some Bronx voters were inclined to agree.

"They don't know what they're doing," said Nora Baerga, who was chatting with friends on Prospect Avenue and E. 185th Street after she'd returned from voting at Grace Dodge High School nearby. Staff at the polls were "more lost than I was," she said, adding that they didn't have enough pens at the site for people to use--despite the fact that the new paper ballots require voters to fill in their choices by hand.

"I had to use my own pen," she said. "They could have just gone to the TD Bank down the street and gotten the free pens there."

Baerga also complained that the type on the new paper ballot was small and hard to read, and that she wasn't offered a magnifying tool. Another man said it was too dark in his booth to see, though overall he thinks the new system is "better, but it takes more time."

Instead of going into a booth and pushing levers, voters now fill out a ballot by hand, then feed it into a scanning machine. If they fill their form out incorrectly, say, by marking more than one candidate for a given office, the machine will tell them they've "over voted" and ask them if they want to cast their ballot as is (the incorrect vote would be rendered invalid) or start over again.

Juan Reyes, who voted this morning at PS 92 on E. 179th St., said he thought the new process was "A little confusing" but that the staff on hand were able to walk him through it.

"I think it's a little bit harder for people who don't know how to do it," he said.

But poll worker Robert Taylor said the day has gone smoothly so far.

"It's going pretty well. I expect no trouble," he said. "You get your ballot, mark your ballot, scan your ballot. It's easy. One, two, three."


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