2010-09-02 / Other News

Voters Will Use New Systems For September 12 Primary

By Neil S. Friedman

Voters cast ballots behind privacy screens. Voters cast ballots behind privacy screens. After a series of discussions and disputes on how to bring New York City’s antiquated voting process into the 21st century, voters will have their first chance to use the modern ballot process for the 2010 primary election on September 14. The general election will be held on November 2nd.

It is, however, something the Board of Elections (BOE) and the city was mandated to do in order to comply with the 2002 Help America Voting Act (HAVA), which requires every state to put into operation voting systems capable of producing a clear paper record that can be used in case of a recount. Incidentally, New York happens to be the last state to institute such a system.

Congress enacted the law after the controversial 2000 presidential election, between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry, when a problem arose with Florida ballots and the final decision was left in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Voter scans her completed ballot. Voter scans her completed ballot. The new poll site voting system (PVS) is a portable electronic unit that uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally the results. This system allows for paper ballots to be immediately tabulated at the poll site on election night.

At the site, voters will be issued an electronic ballot-marking device (BMD) to be used to record their vote on an individual paper ballot.

According to the Board of Elections, which calls the system “a simple three-step process,” here’s how it should work when you got to a poll site to vote:

1. Upon arriving and verifying your registration, sign in and get a paper ballot. A booth will be available to protect your privacy.

2. Mark your ballot by completely darkening the oval — an “X” or check mark or circling your choice is unacceptable — next to your selection with the electronic pen. There is also a space provided for write-in candidates.

3. After completing the ballot, which should NOT be folded, proceed to the scanner area; select the language of your choice by pressing the corresponding button on the screen. Insert the ballot into the scanner. If it is incorrectly marked, the scanner will alert the voter, who can hit a red button, which will return it to be corrected. If it is correct, a green button must be pressed to cast the ballot. The scanner will record the vote and let the voters know that their vote has been properly cast.

If a voter needs to make a change after marking the paper ballot, a new one may be requested from a poll worker. Each voter will be allowed up to three ballots to make changes.

Since there are likely to be more than a few voters who may find the new voting system confusing the first time they use it, Valerie Vazquez-Rivera, BOE director of communications said that more than 36,000 poll site volunteers are taking two additional hours of training to learn the new procedures. She also noted that, as previously, bipartisan teams of poll workers will be available at every site to provide help to voters

The paper ballot may also seem a bit jam-packed since state law requires it must be in four languages (English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean) and all candidates for all the races be on a single page. Magnifiers will be available for anyone having difficulty reading what they consider to be small print. The flip side of the page will include other ballot items. The City Charter Commission recently approved a proposal for two term limits for the November ballot.

In a full-scale effort to educate the public about the new voting method, a BOE campaign is underway to alert the public about the PVS through advertising in dozens of local newspapers, such as the Canarsie Courier, and in a multi-language mailer to the city’s 4.3 million registered voters with instructions on how to use the modern ballot.

The Board of Elections has scheduled demonstrations in each borough for anyone that wants to sample how the new process works and to get familiar with it. There are about ten scheduled for Brooklyn before the September primary. In addition, the BOE has opened learning centers in each borough where voters can go to practice with a paper ballot before going to the polls. The one in Brooklyn is at 345 Adams Street, 4th floor.

Go to: www.vote.nyc.ny.us for more information and demonstration locations.

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