Voting Machine Madness

Queens residents who voted on primary day earlier this month will feel right at home if they ever move to Florida and live through another butterfly ballot debacle, since New York City is giving the Sunshine State a run for its money in the contest for America’s most dysfunctional voting system.

At my polling site in the LeHavre apartment complex’s club house, it took 50 minutes to get the tallies after the polls closed, whereas in the past the results were available within 15 minutes. Most of the poll watchers and inspectors were nostalgic for the old lever machines by the end of the day.

Instead of just walking from machine to machine and reading the numbers off the back, now a calculator-style tape had to be generated from different scanners, and then posted on the wall. Everyone crowded around the tape like high schoolers inspecting the cast list in the school play to see who got the leads.

The logistics were also problematic. In some sites, voters had to walk clear across a room from the table where they sign their name and receive their ballot to the privacy booth to bubble in the circles to cast their vote, and then walk all the way to the scanner to insert their ballot.

For once, New Yorkers can look across the Hudson to New Jersey with envy. There, ballots are cast on touch screens, much like ATM’s or MetroCard vending machines. The text is large and the system is relatively simple.

While it is difficult to envision a scenario where the certification process is revisited and a different machine is introduced, especially considering the constraints of the federal mandate under which the new machines were implemented, there are some simple steps that could be taken.

While the hard work of the Board of Elections employees and poll workers should be commended, more funding must be allocated for training poll workers, who deserve higher pay, not just as adequate compensation for a long and thankless 15-hour day of work, but also to make poll work more appealing to college students and recent graduates who might be more adept with the new technology.

While we don’t have to worry about hanging chads, we certainly want voting during the general election on November 2 to go as smoothly as possible.

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Daniel Egers is Executive Director of the Queens Republican Party and an advisor to the Assembly campaign of Vince Tabone.

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