NYC Voters Still Pulling Levers On Those Ancient Machines


Sure, it’s 2009, well into the new century, but as us New Yorkers head to the polls today, we’re still using the same clunky, decades old lever voting machines we always have.

That’s because an effort to purchase newer, more technologically advanced machines is still bogged down in Albany. The state has yet to formally certify machines from two competing companies: the Dominion Image Cast and the ES&S DS-200.

Last year, the state found problems in 50 percent of 1,500 Image Cast machines that had been shipped. Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the state Board of Elections, blamed Sequoia Voting Systems, as Dominion was known at the time, for adding to the delays. The ES&S machine, meanwhile, was the subject of complaints during September’s primary in Albany County. The machines have also been described as vulnerable to computer hackers…

A pilot program using those two models is now in place in most counties across the state. New York City isn’t participating in it because officials with the city board of Elections opted to wait until the state officially certifies the machines. The counties which are using the machines decided to buy theirs before the final certification.

The state seems to be unable to hit deadlines when it comes to voting machines. Even though the state was supposed to have handicapped accessible machines in place by 2006, it took a federal lawsuit and three more years to put those devices in place.

At this point, observers are hoping that the state will certify the machines by mid-December, opening the way for the city board to make its choice. But who knows whether that’s actually going to happen before 2010.

As for broken machines on Election Day, the League of Women Voters had received one complaint about a machine in a polling site on Eastern Parkway by lunchtime. The Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund also had received a complaint from a Jackson Heights polling site.

Curtis Arluck, a district leader in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan said three machines broke down in in three neighborhood polling sites on Riverside Drive, LaSalle Street and West 109th Street, respectively.

In two of the sites, voters were forced to use paper ballots. Arluck said there seemed to be an unusually long delay in fixing the machines.

“Sometimes voters don’t want to vote on paper ballots,” he says. “Machines break down, they are old, but the question is: why aren’t they being fixed. Unfortunately, it’s same old, same old.”

A spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections says a full accounting of how the machines performed won’t be available until after the polls close tonight.