According to a damning new report from the Democracy Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, thousands of New York votes were voided in the 2010 elections because people were confused by the optical scan voting machine’s instructions. The study says that across New York State, 20,000 votes for governor were uncounted and the same thing happened to between 30,000 and 40,000 votes for other candidates.
The problem was that if you picked too many candidates (“overvoting”), you would see this screen:
The authors of the report explained the issue to WNYC:
Norden, the program’s interim director, said most people don’t know the phrase “Over Voted Ballot” at the top means too many votes were cast for the same race — invalidating their vote for that race.
And he said the big, green “accept” button at the bottom is misleading.
“Our concern was that a lot of people, not understanding what that message meant, would just go ahead press ‘accept’ — green seems like a good thing, it seems like a way to get your vote to count. In fact, what ends up happening in those circumstances is that your vote doesn’t count,” he explained.
The study estimates the black and Hispanic voters were at least twice as likely to have had their votes go uncounted because of this issue.
What’s worse, the authors of the report write that in a presidential election, when voter turnout nearly doubles, the number of lost votes could shoot up to 100,000.
The good news is that the state election board has agreed to change the scanning machine’s warning system, prompted by a lawsuit from the Brennan Center on behalf of the New York NAACP.