Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Voters in Queens will be going analog on Primary Day as the city Board of Elections rolls out the old lever-style voting machines across the five boroughs.

The board sent a fleet of about 7,000 lever machines into storage four years ago as it made the transition to using electronic machines in order to comply with a provision of 2002’s federal Help America Vote Act.

The hotly contested Sept. 10 Democratic primary, however, presents logistical challenges for the board.

Should no candidate receive 40 percent of the vote — a possibility that seemed a given just a few weeks ago but is less so now — the board is required to hold a run-off, which was originally scheduled for two weeks afterward.

In June, Albany passed a measure allowing the city to use the lever machines for the primary and a possible runoff, which lawmakers pushed back to Oct. 1.

“Really the reason is the sheer time frame and logistics,” BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez said. The BOE staff “would have to certify the election to know who’s in the run-off and then print the ballots and test the scanners with the ballots before they go out. Two weeks didn’t allow for that.”

When he signed the bill into law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed reservations.

“I strongly believe that the use of lever voting machines is a poor solution to the board’s concerns,” he wrote in an approval letter. “Nevertheless, circumstances require that I sign this bill into law. Preventing the use of lever voting machines through a veto could profoundly impact the integrity of this year’s elections.”

The electronic machines will return for the general election Nov. 5, and under the state law granting the reprieve the board is required to submit a report by next summer explaining how it plans to avoid returning to using lever machines in future elections.

Vasquez said the board has been getting the word out about the changes via a notice it sent out to all registered voters including a 24-page instruction booklet.

The city Campaign Finance Board also has a guide on its website instructing voters how to use the machines and the ballot-marking devices used by voters with disabilities.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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