Assemblywoman Sandy Galef wants to remind voters in Westchester that new voting machines will be in place for the upcoming fall primary and regular elections. These new machines, which use optical scanners, were approved by the state and purchased so the state would be in compliance with a federal government mandate. Putnam County used these machines last year as part of a pilot program so voters there are already familiar with them.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed by the federal government and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, mandated that the old lever-based voting machines be replaced with new machines that would eliminate questionable ballots, while increasing the accessibility of voting machines to individuals with disabilities.
Because voters must mark ballots by hand, polling sites are required to provide a safe and private place for each person to fill out their ballot to ensure their votes will remain confidential. Polling sites must address any concerns that may arise regarding these privacy stations. The new machines utilize paper ballots that when completed, voters place into a privacy sleeve, then bring to a machine which scans the ballot and collects the paper votes as well. The new machines help prevent ballots from being disqualified by alerting the voter if too many votes were cast on the ballot form. The voter then has the option to correct the ballot before re-submitting it. If voters under vote, they machine does not alert them so voters must make sure ballots are complete. Voters must fill in boxes using the marking pens provided, not mark them with a check mark or “x.” If voters make a mistake, they must bring their ballots back to a poll worker and receive a new ballot.
“Local grassroots advocates approached me in the early 2000s and alerted me to the importance of this issue, and of selecting the right machine that could correctly count votes while ensuring people with disabilities also had equal access. I have been a strong advocate for optical scan paper ballot machines for many years to make sure New York not only met the federal HAVA criteria, but also insured every vote had a paper trail. Many of the original digital marking device machines which other states purchased proved inaccurate,” said Galef. “I am pleased that these new machines will help those with disabilities to come and cast their ballots at the polling place just like other voters, and that every vote will be counted. I understand that it will take some time for all of us to adapt to the new procedures and feel comfortable with these new machines, but I am confident that New York has made the right choice.”
To learn more about these new machines, voters are encouraged to visit the Westchester County Board of Elections website at http://citizenparticipation.westchestergov.com/ where a power point presentation is available that walks voters through the process step by step to avoid surprises on election day. The telephone number for the Westchester County Board of Elections is (914) 995-5700 for any additional questions voters might have regarding these new machines.