Counties brace for new voting machines

Although it all started in Florida almost a decade ago with the controversial election of President George W. Bush, the problem still isn't solved in New York as voters gear up to choose his successor.

Even though voters never got a say on which type of machine they will use, the deadlines for the federal mandated Help America Vote Act of 2002 has come and gone several times over and New York has yet to switch over to electronic voting machines.

But ready or not, a new voting system is finally being put into place.

The vast majority of voters will vote one last time in the 2008 Presidential election on the lever machines that so many are reluctant to let go of.

However in 2009, all lever machines throughout the state will be decommissioned and removed from the polling district.

This year the first phase of the HAVA-required switchover has begun, as all polling places must have at least one ballot-marking device for handicapped voters. Albany and Schenectady counties were two of three counties in the state to choose the Premier AutoMark Ballot Marking Device. Rockland County was the third county to choose the AutoMark.

The ballot-marking device has the ability to aide any voter who requires assistance in marking a paper ballot with their vote. Those who do not require assistance in voting will use the familiar lever voting machines.

Saratoga County followed suit with most of the rest of the state and chose the Sequoia ImageCast machine for its handicapped voters.

The first substantial warnings on the issue came from Eliot Spitzer, then the state's Attorney General, who issued a report in 2005 stating the state stood to lose nearly $250 million in federal funds if it didn't comply to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by the following year. At the end of that year's legislative session a joint chamber committee voted to allow each county to choose its own voting machine.

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