Some voters turned away from special voting machines

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Voting-rights advocates asked the state Board of Elections today to help make sure poll workers know how to work ballot-marking devices on Election Day and understand that while they are in place to provide access to disabled voters, anyone can use them.

Aimee Allaud of the League of Women Voters told the board that poll workers in some counties were actively discouraging voters without disabilities from using the machine on primary day. One League of Women Voters member, who was not disabled, was asked to show proof of a disability, according to Allaud.

Election Commissioner Evelyn Aquila said she visited a number of polling places on primary day and didn’t see evidence that was happening. She asked Allaud to submit something in writing that details where the problems occurred, and the discussion got a little heated. The League of Women Voters is compiling a report.

“Perhaps we should be working together to make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere,” Barbara Bartoletti of the league said.

County boards of election have to put one ballot-marking machine in every polling place this year. The state was supposed to replace all its lever machines by 2006 but has been delayed. Until that happens—currently scheduled for 2009—handicapped-accessible machines have to be available.

Anna Svizzero, director of operations for the Board of Elections, said 3,350 ballot-marking devices were in place for the primary. Just 1,333 people voted on them. In Westchester, 46 people used them. Rockland had 12 users and Putnam had 24. There were some problems with poll inspectors not knowing how to use them, but the state will be providing tipsheets to help with training, she said.

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