Not broken, so don’t fix it


Most of Westchester’s legislators want voters in the county to continue to use mechanical lever voting machines because, as they wrote in a letter to Gov. David Paterson, they are “reliable, user-friendly and cost-effective.”

While preferable to touch screens, optical scan voting have malfunctioned in many counties throughout the U.S. including in Florida, West Virginia, Michigan and Washington, D.C., says the letter signed by 16 of the 17 Westchester legislators.

“Replacing lever voting machines is very costly,” the letter continues. “It has proved to create voter confusion and may result in the use of machines that could compromise the integrity of future elections.”

In 2002, the federal government enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which required states to replace older and unreliable voting systems and to insure that voting is accessible to all voters, including those with disabilities.

While Westchester uses lever voting machines, it makes paper ballots available to those with disabilities. The ballots are counted with optical-scanning voting machines.

The State Board of Elections has approved a pilot program to introduce a paper ballot-optical-scan system for all voters in most of the state’s 62 counties. However, there are several holdouts: the five boroughs of New York City, and Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland counties.

Westchester County Legislators Chairman Bill Ryan, D-White Plains, said the board doesn’t oppose implementing a system that incorporates optical scanners if they are used in conjunction with lever voting machines.


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  1. The pilot program was supposed to provide the optical scan system for only some of the voters in each of the 62 counties. That’s why it was called a “pilot”. However 16 counties have opted to convert completely. Otherwise the article, as far as it went was correct. What it leaves out is the abyssmal performance and quality of the machines received by NYS so far, leading state election commissioner Doug Kellner ot call them “crap”. Also cost overruns on the equipment make it clear that they will cost much more than the federal allocation from the HAVA program, and the maintenance expenses would be horrendous. I’m sure these calculations played a large part in why our legislators are trying to block the turnover. Both the state and counties have budgets stretched to the limit. It’s not a time to create large expenses for already hurting taxpayers.