Did You Know About the New Voting Machines?

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Did You Know About the New Voting Machines?

July 24, 2010 - 16:57

Voting Lever.jpgFederal legislation called the “Help America Vote Act” or HAVA requires that Boards of Elections across New York State jettison the traditional mechanical lever machines. To replace them, the State has now moved to optical scan electronic voting machines. The last election in New Rochelle with lever voting machines was the June 22nd special election for County Legislator District 10 (Varian v. Marcotte).

There will be entirely new voting procedures

The new optical scan electronic voting machines arrived in Westchester County. Voters will start using them in the September primaries.

To prepare voters, Board of Elections Commissioners Reginald LaFayette and Carolee Sunderland have launched a voter outreach drive to increase awareness of the new machines and allow voters to see them – up close and personal.

“County residents will find new voting machines at their polling places with the upcoming elections and we want them to feel as comfortable as possible with the process,” said Sunderland.

Regional forums will be held:

Tuesday, July 20 – 6:00–8:00 p.m. – Grinton Will Library, Yonkers

Thursday, July 22 & Sept. 9–7:00–9:00 p.m. -Westchester County Center, White Plains

Sunday, Oct. 3 – 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – Westchester County Center, White Plains

Thursday, July 29 – 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. – Fox Lane High School, Bedford

For more information, call the Board of Elections at 995-5700 or access their website at

NOTE: County Legislator Jim Maisano has asked for a voting machine forum in New Rochelle. We will update this post and make a separate announcement when that forum is scheduled.

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The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) did not require "that Boards of Elections across New York State jettison the traditional mechanical lever machines." This is a common misinterpretation of the law. Here's the link to HAVA:

HAVA offers money for new machines to states that retire punch card and lever machines, but it does not ban them. HAVA does require that states make voting systems accessible to the disabled. All New York counties are in compliance with this through the deployment of at least one Ballot Marking Device at each poll site.

The view that HAVA requires lever retirement was recently refuted in court where US District Court Judge Joseph Bianco ruled that, "HAVA does not prescribe a particular type of voting machine nor does it have anything to say about any specific requirements on how New York officials must carry out their duties." This Newsday article covered that:

And here's Judge Bianco's decision.

New York's Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) does require levers to be retired, but the constitutionality of the law is being contested by Nassau County and its Board of Elections in State Supreme Court. See:

Meanwhile, there's a separate lawsuit seeking to modify the way the new ballot scanners handle ballots that have more votes cast in a contest than allowed by law. Unlike lever voting machines, ballot scanners allow such overvoting, but such votes can not be counted since it's not clear for which candidate(s) the voter intended to vote.