They are complex machines, controlled by rows of switches and reset by a giant lever that activates a series of dials, switches, counters and a little bill. For decades these iron behemoths put a mechanical imprimatur on the annual rite of democracy, locking in the selections of millions of New Yorkers, from FDR to Nelson Rockefeller. Now they’re worth less than $42. The 2002 Help America Vote Act led to the statewide replacement of the old lever voting machines in time for the 2010 elections with paper ballots logged by electronic scanners. Since then counties have been either warehousing or auctioning off the old machines, or wondering in general how they can rid of them. “They have very little value anymore,” Saratoga County Republican Elections Commissioner Roger Schiera said.
The county put 56 AVM lever voting machines on eBay last year, where they were purchased by a Ballston Spa woman for $2,332 — or $41.64 per machine. Other lots of machines went to scrap yards. According to Schiera, “they have a certain amount of brass in them.”
A decade ago, there were 19,843 lever machines used in 15,571 election districts around the state, according to the state Board of Elections. They were owned by various municipalities and trotted out for elections as needed, quirky, but reliable.
But after close results in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, Congress appropriated money for states to upgrade their voting systems, saying paper punch cards and the hanging chads that came with them had no place in 21st-century America.
New York did not immediately comply, hobbled by partisan bickering over what type of machines to buy. State officials finally rejected electronic versions of the old machines in favor of the optical scanning machines.
In 2006, each county’s board of elections assumed control of the old machines. As Albany County Democratic Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne put it, “they quickly became surplus property.”
The old machines can still be used in village, school, and fire district elections, a practice that will continue for at least another two years under a bill Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed earlier this year. Unions and other fraternal organizations also use the machines for elections.
But when counties have tried to sell them, they haven’t had much luck.
Full Article: Voting machine sales draw a light turnout – Times Union.