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Pressure mounts in growing voting machine controversy


A day after a Rhinebeck resident disrupted a Dutchess County Legislature meeting by trying to address growing concerns over plans to replace the old voting machines; two top county lawmakers are directing the county’s two election commissioners to at least schedule a forum.


A memo, from Legislature Chairman Bradford Kendall, and Finance Committee Chairman Marcus Molinaro, asks commissioners David Gamache and Frances Knapp to closely examine what is at stake.


[Photo] Nowick talks to supporters and reporters outside the administration building prior to the legislature meeting


"We would respectfully request that you conduct at least one public forum to allow community input and citizen comment", said the memo.


The concern is over the type of electronic voting system that would replace the antiquated mechanical machines, their reliability, and immunity from tampering.


The issue came to a head during the first public comment period at Monday’s regular monthly legislative session.


Even though the well-publicized rules clearly state the first public comment is on agenda items only, Andrea Nowick, who identified herself as an attorney, felt she could ignore the rules, to the point that the public microphone was cut off, and the meeting was recessed. Nowick argued the Republican majority refused to allow a resolution, proposed by Democrat William McCabe, to make it to the agenda.


When the meeting reconvened, Democrat Legislator Frederick Knapp moved to have the end-of-meeting public comment, which can be on any topic, moved to the top of the agenda. The legislature, Republicans included, agreed, with the understanding that they were not setting a precedent.


Mahoney: "consider a principle"


By that time, however, Nowick had left the meeting, but others spoke, including Gerald Mahoney, a Town of Poughkeepsie resident who cautioned the legislature not to surrender any control over the voting process. "I ask you to consider a principle, and the principle is that the county and only the county, or the state, whatever the case it is, controls completely the election, and does not farm out any part of the process or farm out any part of the voting process to a private, not-for-profit unaccountable corporation or entity."


Mahoney said his concern that if the county opts for the touch-screen style of voting machine, similar to an ATM machine, the computer coding will be controlled by the company that makes the machine, not the state or county.


Critics of that system favor an optical scanning system that would read paper ballots that are marked in a way similar to lottery tickets.


During a presentation at an Ulster County Legislature meeting earlier this month, advocates of the optical scan system claimed that system offers several advantages, including preserving the paper ballots, and lower cost.


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