Monday, November 08, 2010

New York's Practices for New Machines Create More Uncertainty in Undecided Races

As the several outcomes of races across New York State remain unclear, one thing that that is certain is that they way New York chose to setup its new machines -- failing voters with adequate notification of when the machines cannot read their votes -- will create more uncertainty in the days and recounts ahead.

The State Board of Elections made the decision that optical scanners would not provide voters with any notification when they read an undervote (when it believes a voter skipped a contest-- say because the voter circled the name of a candidate rather than filling in the oval). The problem with the scanners, as one election lawyer is quoted, “sometimes they hit, and sometimes they don't.” The result in many instances will be attorneys arguing over the ballots that the scanners did not register. These ballots may be instances of voters marking outside the oval, circling the candidate’s name, or not having completely filled in the oval.

Moreover, if a voter "overvotes" -- say accidentally selecting Bishop when he meant to select Altshuler, crossing out Bishop when her realized his mistake and then selecting Alshuler -- the machine will not count the vote for anyone and will fail to give the voter clear notice that his vote will not count. In a hand recount, how this voter's vote should be counted may very well be subject to dispute.

Until the State adopts an appropriate notification for when the machines cannot read their ballots, more and more of New York’s races will be decided in the courtroom rather than the privacy booth.

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