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Sep 8, 2010 10:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

New voting machines explained in seminar

Sep 8, 2010 10:29 AM

The primary election next Tuesday will mark the first use of new electronic optical scanner voting machines in Suffolk County. Gone are the old lever machines in use countywide for decades. They will be replaced with paper ballots that voters will fill out by hand and then run through a computer scanner to cast their votes.

To help voters familiarize themselves with the new system, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons will host an informational seminar on Monday, September 13, at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton—the night before the primaries for state governor and U.S. congressional races.

Members of the group will show a Suffolk County Board of Elections video on how the new process works and will circulate a sample of the new ballots that voters will mark to cast their votes. The program will also cover other changes in the election process this year, including new absentee ballots.

The new voting machines were first mandated in the 2005 New York State Election Reform Modernization Act, which outlawed the use of the lever machines after 2007. When several counties did not meet the deadline, the state Department of Justice sued the Board of Elections and a court ordered compliance this year.

The $12 million cost of replacing all of the county’s voting machines was covered entirely by federal grants under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, passed in the wake of the 2000 presidential vote debacle in Florida.

Under the new process, when voters register at their traditional polling place, they will be handed a paper ballot which they will fill out in a privacy booth with a special dry-ink marker. They will then run it through the optical scanner which will record their votes and issue an alert if any of the votes are filled out improperly or if the voter has over-voted in a one-vote category. The machines will not inform the voter what votes were recorded, according to Ivan Young, an assistant to the commissioners at the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Mr. Young said that the county has sent out mailers to all voters with a description and instructions on the new procedures. A website has also been set up with the video on how to use the new ballots at suffolkvotes.com.

Mr. Young said that county officials are also willing to give hands-on demonstrations to civic groups, with the actual ballots and voting machines, so residents can cast practice ballots and familiarize themselves with the process.

MICHAEL WRIGHT

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