Erie County owned approximately 1,000 obsolete lever voting machines when it was required to replace them with electronic machines in 2010. So what happened to the steel machines that weighed about 700 pounds each? All but 10 of the voting machines used for a nearly a century in Erie County were sold for scrap, said Ralph M. Mohr, Erie County’s Republican elections commissioner. Today, four of the 10 machines remain in storage on the sixth floor of Tri-Main Center at 2495 Main St. Another is located in the office of County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, said Daniel E. Meyer, deputy press secretary. Mohr said he bought another for $600 when he took the job as elections commissioner more than two decades ago.
New York: Old lever voting machines could come out of mothballs for New York City runoff elections | Politico
Though the state was required to replace its lever voting machines a decade ago, it’s possible the dust could be blown off those old gray behemoths later this year. “The New York City [Board of Elections] commissioners have mentioned that they are considering using the lever voting machines for the runoff election,” state board co-chair Douglas Kellner said during a meeting on Monday. At issue is whether the city board can program electronic machines in time for a runoff election in this year’s citywide primary elections. Such a race would be held two weeks after the Sept. 12 primary if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote. The city board notes that while the idea came up during its most recent meeting, it hasn’t actually made a request to use the machines yet or even decided that would be the best way to go.
Legislators joined disability and voting advocates at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 13 in Albany to call for an end to the use of lever voting machines in local elections. Although lever voting machines have been replaced in most elections in New York since the implementation of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, many are still in use in village, school district, and other local elections due to repeated extensions by the state Legislature. Some local municipalities and schools prefer to use lever machines because some do not own newer voting machines and must borrow or rent them from the Board of Elections or pay a private company to conduct their elections using more modern voting machines. But advocates say voters with visual, mobility and cognitive disabilities are unable to use the lever machines privately, needing the assistance of a caretaker or poll worker to help them vote.
While Bill de Blasio’s win in the Democratic contest for mayor was the big story out of New York on election day earlier this month, there were other national implications: one of our greatest cities showcased why it’s time to leave 19th century democracy behind. Election officials had to haul old lever machines out of storage, with highly predictable troubles involving broken machines and frustrated voters. In an equally outdated voting rule, voters could only indicate support for one candidate in each race, rather than rank them in order of preference — meaning that instead of a primary winner being determined on election day, there now needs to be an additional run-off election held in the city a few weeks later. When you can only choose one person in a multi-candidate field, the candidate with the most votes can earn well under 50 percent. (On Tuesday, Boston had a mayoral race in which the top vote-getter had just 18 percent; that city will have a runoff between the top two finishers.)
As New York City’s contentious primary campaign drew to a close Tuesday, some voters – including one leading mayoral candidate – encountered problems with the city’s decades-old voting machines. Turnout appeared light, but the city’s complaint line received several thousand voting-related calls. Many reported jams and breakdowns in the antiquated lever machines, which were hauled out of retirement to replace much-maligned electronic devices. In some sites, the broken machines forced voters to use pen and paper to cast their ballot. Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota presumably wrote his own name when his machine broke at his Brooklyn polling place.
Voters will experience a blast from the not-too- distant past Tuesday when they use the old lever voting machines to cast their primary ballots. The city Board of Elections pushed for the one-time use of the retro devices, which were last used in the 2009 election, primarily because they are better suited to a two-person runoff. “It’s a much more shorter time process to change it to a two-person contest,” BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said. But not everyone is convinced the old ways are the best. City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the chair of the governmental operations committee and a candidate for Manhattan borough president, said she is concerned that voters will be confused by the temporary change. “I think it’s weird for 21st century to be available and then go to the lever machines,” she said. “I’m not hopeful, but I might be wrong.”
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.
On Tuesday, Bill de Blasio became the latest frontrunner in New York City’s mayoral election, a race which has seen several major shifts in polling. Whoever emerges victorious in the first round of the Democratic primary next month, almost all of the polling indicates he or she will be headed to a runoff against the second place finisher three weeks later. This might be a problem. The Big Apple’s recent history of elections have included legal battles, chaotic lines at the polls, and vote counts that seem to never end. Adding to those headaches next month are the return of the city’s aging lever-pull voting machines and the possibility of a close finish for that number two spot, opening the door for a nightmare scenario where the results are still in dispute as the date of the final runoff approaches. “I can’t even think about that, the concept is too stressful,” one mayoral campaign staffer, who asked not to be named, said after TPM asked about how the potential Election Day chaos could complicate the tightly scheduled race.
Lever machines are officially back in New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo penned his signature to bill 7832-B on Tuesday, allowing the archaic voting machines back for the primaries and possible runoff elections this September. There was no celebratory exclamation point on the bill, as the governor has done on past bills he has been excited to sign into law. The memo attached to the bill, which passed the State Legislature last month, carried a somber tone. “I strongly believe the use of lever voting machines is a poor solution to the Board’s concerns,” Cuomo’s memo said, speaking of the City Board of Elections (BOE). “Most, if not all, of the impediments the Board has cited have less burdensome solutions, from changes in the Board’s own hand count requirements to the use of high-speed scanner offered by the Board’s vendor, to increase efficiency in completing the required testing.”
The New York City Board of Elections voted unanimously on Tuesday to use lever voting machines for the mayoral primary election and the runoff that is expected to follow. The board’s action came a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that authorized the return of the machines, which had been replaced in 2010 by more modern electronic voting devices. The measure signed by Mr. Cuomo also moves the date of the runoff to Oct. 1, from Sept. 24. “Using the lever machines gives us a much greater degree of confidence that we’ll be able to conduct a primary and runoff in the time frame appropriated,” said Steven H. Richman, the general counsel for the Board of Elections, who described the change as a “temporary, short-term accommodation.”
BOE lawyer Steve Richman said the agency — which is awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s verdict on whether the city can redeploy its old lever machines for the Sept. 10 primaries and a possible runoff to follow — is prepared to feature Bengali regardless of which machines are used. “The board is prepared to be at full compliance” with the law, Richman said at today’s BOE meeting. But Glenn Magpantay of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, speaking on behalf of a coalition filing suit against the BOE in federal court, said the Board vowed to roll out Bengali voting materials last June — and suddenly said in August that it wasn’t happening.
The safety net for reinstating lever voting machines in New York City elections has officially been cut. When the New York State Legislature passed a law allowing lever voting machines this election, opponents had one final avenue to continue their fight. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) required the state to get permission from the Department of Justice for any changes in voting procedure. Advocates have submitted arguments against the use of the antiquated machines, citing many of the same issues submitted to the state, such as limited disability access and small type for foreign languages. That law was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States on Tuesday, leaving the door open for the continued use of lever machines in local elections as long as the state continues to pass legislation allowing the archaic machines.
New York: State Legislators Ready To OK Lever Voting Machines For NYC 2013 Primary And Runoff | New York Daily News
The Senate and Assembly are expected to vote as early as Thursday on legislation that would allow the city Board of Elections to use lever machines in the primary and run off elections, lawmakers said Tuesday. Modern optical scan voting machines would still be used for the general election. “We need to save the Board of Elections from itself and the City of New York from an embarrassing election process,” said Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a sponsor of the measure.
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.
Editorials: Sheldon Silver and Assembly must okay return to lever voting machines | New York Daily News
New York’s mayoral candidates on Tuesday began collecting the petition signatures needed for their names to appear on the September primary ballot — for an election that promises to be a botch of infamous proportions. This, right now, is the moment for the Legislature to rescue the city from a near-certain nightmare by authorizing the Board of Elections to press the old, clunker, mechanical voting machines back into action. At Washington’s orders, the board mothballed the contraptions in favor of electronic ballot scanners. But these devices are functionally useless up against the quick succession of elections that are likely this fall: first a primary, then a runoff if no candidate gets more than 40%, then the November general election.
A new bill to bring back the old mechanical lever voting machines would require the New York City Board of Elections to declare that it’s incapable of running a timely election on the current optical scanners. The bill introduced to the Assembly on Wednesday would only affect the primary and run-off elections. Voters would still use the scanners in the general election. “This is a one-time shot at using the lever machines,” said the bill’s sponsor Assemblyman Michael Cusick.
New York: Assembly Democrats Float Bill To Bring Back NYC Lever Voting, But Details Remain In The Works | New York Daily News
The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-S.I.) doesn’t match a previously passed Senate bill in several key areas. The Senate version permits the use of lever machines for any non-federal vote. Cusick’s proposal limits it to this year’s primary and possible runoff elections alone. With two weeks left in the legislative session, Senate bill sponsor Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) said he’s hopeful — but not convinced — an agreement can be struck.
New York City has spent $95 million over the past few years to bring its election process into the 21st century, replacing its hulking lever voting machines with electronic scanners. But now, less than three years after the new machines were deployed, election officials say the counting process with the machines is too cumbersome to use them for the mayoral primary this year, and then for the runoff that seems increasingly likely to follow as soon as two weeks later. In a last-ditch effort to avoid an electoral embarrassment, the city is poised to go back in time: it is seeking to redeploy lever machines, a technology first put in place in the 1890s, for use this September at polling places across the five boroughs. The city’s fleet of lever machines was acquired in 1962 and has been preserved in two warehouses in Brooklyn, shielded from dust by plastic covers.
Old-style voting machines might have confused some voters who cast their ballots for the recent school board election in the North Rockland school district. Board member Robert Masiello, who narrowly won re-election, said many supporters told him that after they cast ballots, they realized they mistakenly had voted for Masiello’s opponent, Dian Cifuni, because of the way the ballot was laid out in the machine. In the North Rockland school district, candidates run for a specific seat. Each seat is specified on the ballot with the current officeholder’s name. For example, on the recent ballot, Masiello’s seat was identified as “Office held by Trustee Robert Masiello” on top of the column. Under the name of the seat, there was a lever, and Cifuni’s name followed. Another lever was below Cifuni’s name, and Masiello’s name followed. Cifuni’s name was listed above Masiello’s because she had picked the first in the ballot-placement drawing.
New York City’s Board of Elections has complained for weeks that the electronic voting machines first used in 2010 cannot handle the city’s tight primary elections schedule. But one solution, endorsed by the board and under consideration in Albany, seems absurd. The board and the State Legislature are talking about scrapping the new machines and replacing them with the old metal clunkers, with their creaky levers, that went out of production more than 30 years ago. The issue arises because the primary elections are set for Sept. 10. State law requires a runoff two weeks later if no one receives more than 40 percent of the vote in citywide races, which seems likely with at least five competitive candidates in the Democratic mayoral race. But the board claims it needs more than two weeks to reset the electronic machines and print new ballots.
The New York State Senate have passed two bills that would allow for the use of lever-style voting machines in non-federal elections in New York City, and in elections held by villages, school districts and special districts. Legislation (S4088B), sponsored by Senator Martin Golden, would allow New York City to use lever voting machines for all non-federal elections, including the upcoming primary, run-off and general elections this fall. In addition, the bill would to move the date for a potential run-off election in New York City from September 24th to October 1st to avoid a conflict with the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
Voting Blogs: New York City Considers Move Back to Lever Voting Machines For September Elections | BradBlog
We have yet another potential mess concerning elections in New York City on the new optical-scan computer tabulation systems which recently replaced the mechanical lever machines used by the city for decades. This time, the problem relates to the upcoming citywide elections in September which, if no candidate wins more than 40% in any of the primary races, a runoff will be required by state law, just two weeks later. This is now a huge problem for the city, since there is concern that it could be all but impossible to re-prepare and fully re-test the computer optical-scan systems in the short time after the primary and before the runoff elections. It has led some, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as the NYC Board of Elections, seemingly regretting the move away from lever machines, and considering bringing them out of mothballs for this year’s runoffs.
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.
Indiana: From levers to touch screens: A brief history of Tippecanoe voting technology | Journal and Courier
In the past 20 years, Tippecanoe County has spent more than $1.5 million upgrading its voting technology, transitioning from pull-lever machines to modern touch-screen devices. Even so, some observers say the new technology hasn’t removed the potential for vote-counting chaos that marred the 2000 presidential election. A look at voting technology in Tippecanoe County. Dec. 12, 1978: Tippecanoe County Clerk Sarah Brown proposes switching from pull-lever voting machines to computer punch cards. One reason, she says, is the expense of moving 90 voting machines the size of upright pianos into and out of precincts at election time — $10,000 that year alone ($35,000 in 2012 dollars).