Monday, November 13, 2006

Big Week for Voting Machines in NYC

The elections are over, and New Yorkers may have voted on lever machines for the last time. Pursuant to an agreement with the Department of Justice, all lever machines in New York should be replaced by some form of electronic voting by the primaries in September 2007.

There are several vendors looking to sell machines in New York, but the choice really comes down to one of two basic type of machines: precinct based optical scan machines, whereby a voter fills out her ballot by hand and has it read electronically, or "DRE" or touchscreen machines, which work a little like ATM machines.

Except in New York our touchscreens won't work exactly like ATMs. Normally, an ATM gives you one choice at a time: enter your pin code on the first screen, when that is done, choose whether to withdraw or deposit, when that is done, choose which account to withdraw from, etc. In New York, because of an outdated law, we're stuck with a terrible "full face" design: instead of being presented with one race at a time, every race and every candidate are presented on the same screen at once. As the Brennan Center's comprehensive study on electronic voting machines shows, this design produces terrible results: voters get overwhelmed by all the choices on a computer screen and end up missing some races.

New York City residents will have a chance to view some of these machines up close this week. There will be two public demostrations this week, followed by a public hearing at the New York City Board of Elections next week. We encourage you all to go and make your voice heard.

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