Article published Jan 24, 2008


State picks optical-scan machines


On the last day it could decide before having the decision made by a federal judge, the state Board of Elections Commissioners today chose optical scan ballots for handicapped voting for the November elections, according to Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who’d advocated this type of machine as a member of an Assembly committee and a statewide citizens’ advisory panel.


By federal court order, the Board of Elections had until today to decide on a method to allow voters with handicap accessible needs to vote without assistance as part of the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress. These machines must be in place in time for the 2008 September primary elections. It is widely believed that the method the board decided on will become the standard voting mechanism for all of New York starting in 2009.


The board eventually decided to allow three companies to sell their machines to counties. They are Sequoia Imagecast, Premier Automark and the ES&S Automark. All three are optical scan ballot machines. Their backers said that because they have paper ballots filled out by voters, they leave a record that can help verify results and settle disputes. The board decided to forego any machines known as DRE’s or touch-screen voting machines, which may not provide such a paper trail.


“Optical scan has been proven time and time again to be the most reliable and accurate method of casting votes and now New York State has taken steps towards becoming HAVA compliant by choosing the best option for worry-free voting,” said Lifton, D- and Working Families-125th Dist.


Lifton has been a member of the Citizens’ Election Modernization Advisory Committee since its inception in 2005 to advice the state Board of Elections on the voting machine question.


As a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Election Law, Lifton has advocated a “Scan and Be Sure” voting machine campaign, working to ensure the Board of Elections chose paper ballots and optical scan voting machines along with a ballot marking device for the disabled.


“I’m sure in the years to come, the voters of New York will be glad the Board of Elections and the state legislature took the necessary time to find the best voting option, instead of wasting millions of federal dollars on machines that would need to be replaced again after finding flaws in them,” Lifton said. “The voters can also be confident that their vote, their all-important right as a citizen, will be counted accurately every time they step into a voting booth,” she added.


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