Statement to the Election Commissioners of New York City
November 21, 2006
Good afternoon. My name is Constance Dondore. I am a registered voter living in Manhattan. Thank you for holding this hearing! I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you.
I attended the demonstration of new voting machines at LaGuardia Community College in Queens last week. I watched the presentations in the auditorium and tried voting on the equipment in the lobby. I also spoke to the vendors. I would also like to say that on November 7 I went to the New York Board of Elections at 200 Varick Street and voted on the BMD there in order to get personal experience with that.
I have to admit that the giant computerized voting machines I saw at the demonstration were seductive and voting on them seemed exciting. In fact, I was so seduced by their features that even though I saw the paper trail displayed on the side of the machine, I forgot to check whether it recorded accurately the names that I had touched on the screen.
And that was something I had wanted to monitor when I came to the demonstration.
Based on all my experience, I am convinced that the DREs will require quite a lot of time for voting. I believe that we will need quite a lot more DREs than optical scanners and ballot marking devices, and that the cost to our city for DRE equipment is not justified.
Regardless of how exciting a giant computerized voting machine may seem, I am concerned about our votes and ballots getting lost in all the excitement. I don’t want to see our elections turn into disputes about computers
The voter-verifiable printout from the DREs will require careful inspection by each voter. During the peak voting hours, when voters will be rushed, I do not believe all voters will
remember to verify their printout or be able to verify it carefully enough to find any errors. Moreover, unless there is a full 100% count of the votes on the voter-verified printout, the electronic tallies from the DREs will be used to determine the outcome of our elections anyway.
I believe a first-hand voter-marked paper ballot is a more reliable record of the voter’s intent than a second-hand voter-verified paper trail which is not the legal ballot anyway. By “second-hand” I mean that the voter first interacts with the touchscreen and then the computer prints the list of races and the candidates selected. It is possible that the printout will not be verified by each voter, so we will never know if the printouts are all accurate.
I urge you to choose among the optical scanners available to us, and put your efforts into devising procedures using cameras and multipartisan observers to secure the paper ballots. I believe that with paper ballots, optical scanners, and ballot marking devices for voters with special needs, we can have trustworthy, affordable elections.