Get the vote right

New York headed for trouble if counties don't have voting-machine choices.


Elmira Star Gazette

Elmira NY

November 20, 2005


A year from now Twin Tiers voters and the rest of New York will walk into polling places and cast their ballots on new machines. But what kind will they be, and when voters walk out how certain can they be that their votes have counted?


The credibility of that 2006 vote and the ones in succeeding years rest with the New York State Board of Elections, which appears to be on a misguided path toward forcing statewide use of touch-screen machines that are not only excessively expensive but too flawed to ensure reliability.


Each county should have the option to choose the touch-screen machines, as flawed as they are, or the more reliable optical-scan machines that we have endorsed because they are more cost-efficient and credible for Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties.


At the state level, the Legislature and Gov. George Pataki should intervene and direct the state Board of Elections to interpret state law in a way that would allow a choice, rather than the board's apparent interpretation that says touch-screens are the only way to display what is called a full-face ballot.


Lurking on the sidelines but hardly disinterested are the manufacturers of voting machines who would love to sell the state the more expensive touch-screen versions at $8,000 to $11,500 per unit compared with $5,500 per optical-scan. But those touch-screens are riddled with problems, so much so that Miami-Dade County's elections supervisor recommended the county get rid of the $24.5 million worth of machines it bought in 2002 .


Touch-screen machines simply have not been perfected. Maybe one day they will, but as an October General Accounting Office report indicates, they have caused a multitude of problems. A North Carolina county cited by the GAO report experienced memories filling up as the touch-screen machines continued to accept as many as 4,000 votes that were not counted.


The state Board of Elections appears ready to ignore such problems and adopt a disastrous policy that could cost the federal, state and local governments more than necessary and result in embarrassing voting irregularities in a very important 2006 election in New York.


Only pressure from the public, legislators and the governor can bring good sense to bear on the elections board before it's too late. That pressure needs to come soon or New Yorkers will be stuck with an imperfect way to choose their public officials.


Copyright 2005 Star-Gazette.



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