Paper ballots next year? State election official says they'd be impractical


By William J. Kemble , Correspondent


KINGSTON - Ulster County lawmakers are considering the use of paper ballots for the 2008 election in an effort to comply with federal laws that some say allow for dishonest vote counts.


The proposal was discussed during a meeting this week of the county Legislature's Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, at which Legislator Susan Zimet said state Board of Elections officials have yet to certify any of the machines being required by federal officials under the Help America Vote Act.


"The (U.S.) Department of Justice has just recently pretty much said that they're going to follow through suing the state of New York because we haven't followed through and gotten they machines," said Zimet, D-New Paltz. "They are going to try to force the state of New York to buy these DRE (digital recording equipment) machines to have in place for the 2008 elections."


Ulster and othert counties in New York currently use lever-action voting machines.


Information given to the committee contends all machines that rely on software to maintain a voting record can have their programs altered and provide false vote counts as a result.


Zimet distributed information reporting that "Microsoft, whose product the vendors rely on, won't let even a couple of guys in the government in on the big secret, insisting that the state bypass its laws and accept the secret vote counting by the corporations."


Committee members said a paper-style ballot that's read by a machine called Automark was used by handicapped voters this year and worked fine.


"Handicapped people used the Automark (voting machines) in this last election," Zimet said. "It worked very well for them. They're hand counted, and we even had an optical scan afterwards do the counting."


Committee Chairman Gary Bischoff said systems that currently are used to handle absentee and affidavit ballots, which are paper, could be used for all voting in the county.


"A certain percentage of the electorate votes by absentee," said Bischoff, D-Saugerties. "Those procedures have to be in place today. This is just an expansion of the existing Board of Elections procedures."


State Board of Elections spokesman Bob Brehm said on Wednesday that using paper ballots for all votes would be a cumbersome process and is not recommended by the board.


"I don't think anybody is proposing that we go to paper in '08," he said.


"Certainly a paper system is one that some have mentioned for a long time," Brehm said. "But a paper system would be a long process in order to certify, especially in a very busy presidential election."


Two plans being considered by the state board involve the use of ballot-marking devises that are double-checked by machines, but implementation has been delayed by differences between Republicans and Democrats over how many machines should be used, Brehm said.


In Ulster County, the paper ballot recommendation was approved unanimously the Efficiency, Reform and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and will be taken up by the full Legislature as soon as Dec. 5.


İDaily Freeman 2007