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LoHud.com, New York's Lower Hudson Valley

The Journal News

February 1, 2008

 

Paper ballot activists rally in Westchester as voting machine ruling looms

 

Nicole Neroulias

The Journal News

 

WHITE PLAINS - What do they want? Paper ballots. When do they want them? Nov. 4, 2008.

 

Led by Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, a group of about a dozen local environmentalists, advocates for the disabled and other grassroots activists held a rally outside the Westchester County Board of Elections yesterday, calling for New York's elections officials to stand firm against direct-recording electronic machines, the ATM-style touch-screen voting devices.

photoNicole Neroulias/The Journal News

Teresa Hommel, left, speaks out yesterday in favor of paper ballots at a rally at the Westchester County Board of Elections.

The state Board of Elections last week approved three ballot-marking devices, which would let voters mark their preferences on paper ballots that are then optically scanned, for use in this year's presidential election. But two of the devices may not comply with state requirements, and Liberty, a direct-recording electronic company, has applied for a temporary restraining order against the decision.

 

Awaiting a response from state Supreme Court, Galef said the White Plains rally had turned from a chance to "say hooray, hooray," to an opportunity to reaffirm support for the state board's Jan. 24 decision. All counties must decide which voting devices to purchase by Feb. 8. The state is working to upgrade its election equipment to comply with a federal law.

 

Other speakers explained they prefer paper ballots because they provide physical evidence of their vote, with fewer technical difficulties than reported on touch-screen machines used in other states.

 

"If you press your pencil as hard as you can and a mark still doesn't appear beside your candidate, you can just go sharpen your pencil," explained Teresa Hommel, creator of WheresThePaper.org. "If I mark my candidate, the mark doesn't suddenly jump over to another spot ... a paper ballot doesn't crash."

 

Even environmentalists support paper ballots, because the priority is to have accurate votes, explained George Klein, chairman of the Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group.

 

"If politicians can get into office without honest votes, they won't pay attention to the citizenry, and democracy will start to fail," he said.

 

Copyright 2007 The Journal News, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper serving Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in New York.