WXXI Local Stories
Mon August 28, 2006
Report Finds Voting Machines Error Prone
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York –
New York University's Brennan Center finds that the electronic voting machines that the state is thinking of authorizing for purchase are the most prone to mistakes of any kind of system currently in use in the nation. Larry Norden, co- author of the report, says there was a higher rate of lost votes than with other voting systems.
"The machines... were confusing for voters to use," Norden said.
In New York State, there is a law, called the full-face ballot law, which says all of the races for every single office open in New York must be displayed on one single page.
That means New York can't use ATM- like machines that feature just one race on each page, and which allow the voter to scroll sequentially from one election contest to the next. Norden says the more choices that a voter has to make on one page, the more chances for mistakes.
The report found that Direct Electronic Recording machines, known as DRE's , that do permit the voter to focus on just one race at a time, had fewer instances of error.
The other machines that the State Board of Elections is considering, known as Optical Scan machines, that can be immediately verified at the polling place, also were found to have far fewer mistakes.
The League of Women Voters favors the optical scan models. The League's Barbara Bartoletti says the system is not as technical, and there are fewer things that can go wrong.
"Anyone who has ever filed out an SAT (test) or... a lottery ticket here in New York knows how to fill out these ballots," she said.
Lee Daghlian, with the State Board of Elections, which will authorize the types of machines that can be purchased by each individual county, says the State Board just received the report and is studying it. He says the Board has no choice but to consider the full-face ballot electronic voting machines as an option. He says the legislature, in a bi-partisan decision, opted to keep the full-face ballot requirement for the new machines. He says New Yorkers may find it easier to cope with the full-face electronic machines because they are already accustomed to the format.
The Brennan Center study found that the margins of error between the various machines were not that huge, just one half to one percent, but the Center's Norden says in a close race, which happens often in New York, a small amount of votes that are missed or recorded incorrectly could make a big difference.
New York is already under pressure to conclude its voting machine purchases. The state, the last in the nation to fulfill federal requirements to upgrade voting systems, has been sued by the U.S. Justice Department and is in danger of losing nearly $50 million dollars in federal aid.