New York City voters should be prepared to cast their ballots once again this fall on voting machines invented in the 19th century. State legislators were apparently close to a deal on Wednesday afternoon to allow New York City’s clueless board of elections to use the old mechanical machines for the city’s September 10 primary. This is happening because New York City officials can’t figure out how to use newfangled machines with paper ballots and scanners — a system used with success across the country. In New York, the election board says that if there is a runoff, they won’t be able to tally the votes in time because the ballots are counted by hand, not by computer. And with so many Democrats running for mayor, a runoff is almost certain. So the city’s board pleaded with the legislature to let them truck out the old Shoup machines that have been sitting in warehouses for about two years.
The Shoup machines were notoriously cranky when they were in full use. Imagine their troubles after two years in storage. Even in the best of times, some machines failed to count votes if the total was more than 100. Others froze or failed. And there is no way to double check the vote on these creatures since there is no paper trail.
State Senator Martin Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, has already managed to get the Senate to agree to a return of the Shoups for all non-federal elections. (The feds require the new machines with their paper trail and the access to voting for the disabled.) The Assembly on Tuesday released a bill that also allows the city board to revert to the clunkers if necessary. If Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees, and he is said to be studying the issue, New Yorkers will vote in much the same way they did half a century ago.