New Voting Machines Under Fire

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A coalition of civil rights groups are suing New York's Board of Elections in federal court over what they say is a design flaw in the way new electronic voting machines are set up that could lead to thousands of votes being thrown out.

The problem is that if you vote for too many candidates in one race the state's new machines tell you you've “over-voted,” but they still allow you to submit your ballot that way, instead of filling out a new one. That means you would be choosing to have your vote discounted for the race in which you’ve “over-voted”.

In Florida’s 2008 election, the machines were set up with a similar system in about a dozen counties and voting rights groups say about 12,000 votes were lost. Advocates say this discriminates against senior citizens, minorities and people who don't speak English well.

"Fix the machines. It's easy. No money. We always talk about democracy--this mayor of the city is talking about reform, what could be better reform than to make sure that every citizen's vote counts," says Hazel Dukes of the NAACP.

Advocates say it's easy to fix and just requires changing the settings on the machines so that they spit your ballots back if you over vote.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU law school is filing the suit today.

The State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin says the system is legally compliant and understandable, and that the board cannot make a change to the system and adequately test it before the election this fall.

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