Dented, dinged and dated, New York’s battleship-gray lever voting machines have been hauled out of retirement because the city can’t seem to get the hang of electronic voting.Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for news and conversation. The board is using the lever machines for the coming primary elections because of their quicker turnaround. About 5,100 old machines, each weighing more than 800 pounds and made of 20,000 parts, have been lubricated, and the names of candidates from 2009 (Michael R. Bloomberg, anyone?) have been removed and replaced with those of this year’s contenders. But there is a question no one can answer for sure: Will they work? “I’m very nervous about it,” said Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who leads a City Council panel that monitors the Board of Elections. Ms. Brewer’s interest is personal as well — she is one of four candidates in a hotly contested Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president. The lever machines to be used on Tuesday were acquired in the 1960s. In 2010, they were replaced with a $95 million electronic system that uses optical scanners to read paper ballots. But after long lines and chaotic polling scenes in 2012, as well as problems producing complete election results, the State Legislature this year authorized the return of the lever machines for the primary and any ensuing runoff, though it insisted that the city make the electronic machines work for the November general election.
… Government watchdog groups and civil rights organizations have a variety of concerns this year. They worry that the lever voting machines, stored under plastic covers in a pair of Brooklyn warehouses and largely forgotten for the past several years, might break down. They fret about the sizable number of poll workers who are familiar only with the optical scanners. And they fear rampant confusion among voters — on Sunday, the home page for the Board of Elections still featured the instructions, “Vote the New Way,” along with a large photograph of an electronic voting machine, and there was no sample ballot displayed.
“It’s really going to be very hard to predict what’s going to happen,” said Kate Doran, the election specialist for the League of Women Voters of the City of New York. “My own feeling is you’re going to have voters who have never voted on these levers before, you’re going to have poll workers who are poorly trained, and we’ll get machine breakdowns which will send us into a paper-ballot system. That’s the worst case.”