Sunday, April 26, 2009

Election commissioners reflect on levers in the NY-20 congressional race

Automatic Voting MachineImage by R. Wahtera via Flickr

At the bottom of this article about the Murphy/Tedisco NY-20 congressional race I found an interesting discussion of voting machine technology with some quotes by the Columbia County election commissioners.

Challenges to second-home voters prolong House race count:

One factor that has not hindered the vote count is voting machine technology. The two commissioners agreed that the familiar, mechanical lever machines worked well during the March 31 election. Mr. Kline called them foolproof. Ms. Martin said they were completely reliable and functioned beautifully.

Asked whether the board had considered using the new electronic ballot marking voting machines for the special election, Mr. Kline said, “It would have been a nightmare. Every paper ballot might have been contested.”

Ms. Martin said that time did not permit using the new machines, and she said the cost to taxpayers of using them would have been considerable. Just licensing software for a one-candidate election would have cost up to $80,000, with ballots costing an additional $20,000, and that’s just the beginning. Prices for ongoing services from voting machine vendors will be going up soon, she said.

Both commissioners support a resolution adopted in January by the county Board of Supervisors asking the state for permission to retain the lever voting machines while augmenting them with the new, handicapped-accessible ballot marking devices that counties all over state were required to purchase last fall."
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  1. This article may have generated some confusion about Columbia County’s electronic voting devices. There are two types: the ballot marker, which has been in use in Columbia County and the state since the 2008 September primary, and the optical scanner, which, though contained within the same apparatus as the ballot marker, has not yet been used in the county.

    In the March 31st special election, one such electronic voting device was deployed to each of the county’s 42 polling places, and the ballot-marking function of each was set up for use. What was not used were the optical scanners. It was the optical scanners that concerned both Commissioner Don Kline and me; using the scanners would have considerably complicated the election and made it far more expensive than it was—which, given the court actions and the intense and lengthy scrutiny of the paper ballots, may well cost county taxpayers $100,000.

    Virginia Martin
    Democratic Election Commissioner
    Columbia County, New York

  2. Thanks for adding your clarification, Commissioner Martin.