Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Concerns About New York's Voting Machines: An Update

As we blogged recently, the Brennan Center, along with a coalition of other voting rights and good government groups, has called upon the State Board of Elections to take steps to prevent the alarmingly high overvote rate seen in other jurisdictions using the optical scan voting machines selected for use in New York.

Our primary objective is to have the Board require the machines’ manufacturers to reconfigure the units to automatically reject overvoted ballots – a function that at least one of the manufacturers says can be customized during configuration. We’d also like voters to receive a clearer error message when there is a problem with their ballots.

The Board of Elections spoke with our coalition last Thursday, and agreed to take the following steps:

  1. Determine whether the reconfiguration of both certified optical scanners to automatically reject overvotes requires a modification to the configuration files or to the source code.
  1. Determine whether recertification is necessary for changing the scanners’ handling of overvotes.
  1. Determine the technical requirements for modifying error messages for both optical scanners.
  1. Determine whether both optical scanners can display an error message when automatically returning an overvoted ballot.

We will follow up with the Board of Elections to learn their findings in these four areas and to continue to work toward what we understand to be a relatively easy change that could save tens of thousands of ballots. The Board will discuss this issue tomorrow at a meeting that will be webcast live on its website.

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