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New Voting Machines Bring Ethics Questions, No Levers (Gasp!)

March 7, 2010

One of our fellow readers alerted us to a story in the Gotham Gazette about the new voting machines recently purchased by the corrupt Board of Elections folks. As you know, swirls of controversy have surrounded this move to replace the old machines. Here is the story from GG:

If all goes according to plan, New York City will have new voting machines this year. After years of delays, New York is making progress toward complying with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which required states to update their voting systems in the aftermath of Florida’s 2000 election debacle. New York is the last state to comply with the federal legislation and plans to have new machines in place by this year’s primary elections. Questions about how the city selected its machines though, could create more delays and confusion in the months leading up to the September election.

Voters across the state, including in New York City, almost certainly will bid farewell to our decades-old Shoup lever machines. The New York City Board of Elections voted this month to purchase optical-scan voting machines fromElections Systems & Software. The city’s contract, the largest for voting machines of all the counties in New York, is worth $60 million to $70 million, according to a spokesperson for the Board of Elections.

Voting Without Levers

The new machines, the Election Systems & Software (ES&S) DS200 optical scanner, will read and tabulate paper ballots cast by voters on Election Day. The machines will be used in conjunction with the company’s ES&S AutoMark ballot marking devices, which the city purchased last year to be placed in every poll site. The ballot marking devices allow all voters, including those with disabilities, to mark a paper ballot independently by using the machine’s touch screen and accessibility functions, like a Braille keypad or audio recordings of the ballot for those with visibility impairments. The city placed devices in every poll site in 2009. Under the new system, optical scan machines will scan and count ballots filled out using the marking devices ballots marked by as well as those cast using pen.

Voters who do not use the ballot marking devices will vote by marking paper ballots, much as if they were taking a multiple choice exam. They will receive a paper ballot listing all the races, take it to a voting station and bubble in their choices with a pen provided by the board. Then the paper ballot will be fed into the optical scan machine, where it will be tabulated. Barring the voter has not incorrectly filled out the ballot or the machine does not detect an error, the machine will accept the ballot, and the voter is done.

A Questionable Contract?

While that all seems clear, the process that let the Board of Elections select the ES&S equipments seems somewhat murky. The board was choosing between ES&S and an optical scan machine made by Dominion Voting. The board selected the ES&S machines on Jan. 5, after holding public demonstrations where the public could see the two machines under consideration. The board held a hearing to allow the public to give their opinion about the two machines. Board commissioners also considered anevaluation report put together by board staff. During the meeting, it was reported that evaluating team’s report had given the edge to ES&S.

Most other counties in the state, which had already made their decisions, selected the Dominion optical scan machine. The city board’s president, Julie Dent, in a prepared press release stated, “Ensuring that every New Yorker’s vote is counted accurately remains the board’s number one goal. We believe the DS200 poll site voting system will provide the accuracy and security that are essential in the voting process.”

Now federal investigators are looking at that vote and the role of ES&S lobbyist Anthony Mangone. Mangone began working for ES&S in 2009. On Jan. 6 — the day after the Board of Elections vote — he was indicted by federal prosecutors on corruption charges connected to an incident in Yonkers where he allegedly bribed a City Council member to change her vote to support two major development projects she had once opposed. As a result of the investigation of the board’s vote, two Republican commissioners l, J.C. Polanco from the Bronx and Judith Stupp from Queens, public education campaign, which will be critical to the success of the new voting system. So New Yorkers would be wise to prepare for the switch, but perhaps reserve their farewell to the Shoup lever machines just a bit longer.

  1. Christopher Pepperman permalink
    March 10, 2010 11:48 am

    Regarding Craig’s friend, Jay Savino, Chairman of The Bronx GOP‏:

    Bronx Republicans J.C. Polanco and Jay Savino have been served with subpoenas by federal prosecutors investigating a $50 million voting-machine contract the city’s Board of Elections awarded a Nebraska company. Polanco is the Bronx Republican commissioner; Savino is the chairman of the Bronx Republican Party.”

  2. Joe Solomon permalink
    March 10, 2010 11:56 am

    This is worth reviewing from 2008:

    Giuliani Gets A Lift To Minnesota From Catsimatidis »

    By Elizabeth Benjamin, September 1, 2008

    Rudy Giuliani flew in for the GOp convention in Minnesota in style today, eschewing the hustle and bustle of commercial travel for the comfort of a private plane – a Gulfstream 4, to be exact – owned by ’09 mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis.

    The supermarket mogul confirmed that he had indeed provided transportation for Giuliani, noting that his plane was often at the former mayor’s disposal during the presidential campaign, too.

    Catsimatidis was not on the flight; he’s still at home in New York, although he is thinking of coming to Minnesota later this week to catch the invocation that is scheduled to be delivered by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios (he was also in Denver).

    Catsimatidis used to be a Democrat and raised a lot of cash for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid this year. But he recently changed his enrollment to the GOP in preparation for a possible run for mayor on the party’s line in the style of another billionaire business mogul (who’s now an independent).

    Also on the flight with Giuliani were chairs of some of the city’s county GOPs, including Jay Savino (Bronx), Craig Eaton (Brooklyn) and Phil Ragusa (Queens). The Manhattan and Staten Island chairs (John Friscia and Jennifer Saul Yaffa) aren’t here.

    Read more:

    f/y/i –

    Another Billionaire buying friends. When will the GOP take down the for sale sign?

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