New York City elections go retro
By Adam Wisnieski
The New York City Board of Elections plans to bring back the old lever voting machines — but not for casting ballots.
Last week the BOE unveiled its prototype of a new voter kiosk, installed in the shell of the old lever voting machine, which is supposed to help voters find their Election District line and speed up election-night reporting.
The board is looking for City Council funding to create 2,500 kiosks for a pilot in early 2014, a project that will cost somewhere in the range of $15 to $20 million.
Ever since the new electronic machines replaced lever machines, voters and members of the media have been highly critical of how long it takes to get unofficial results on election night.
This is the second change initiated by the BOE in the aftermath of the Congressional District 13 primary between Rep. Charles Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, in which some results were initially reported incorrectly. The debacle led to City Council hearings on how to improve the voting experience.
Workers initially cut and pasted paper records from each machine at a polling site and added the results manually. But changes were made during the presidential election this fall and tallies were uploaded onto a single memory stick and brought to a police precinct.
If the BOE gets funding for the kiosks police precincts will be cut out of the process entirely.
The new machines would be equipped with a USB port, allowing poll workers to upload results in minutes on site.
District Leader Bruce Feld said he applauds the change because the BOE’s technology upgrade has not improved the voting experience.
“Any little ray of sunshine is welcome,” he said. “What should be a very easy and efficient process has become, unfortunately, a very difficult process.”
Deputy Inspector Kevin Burke, commander of the 50th Precinct, said he’s pleased with the prospect of the new system.
“It appears to make the results reporting process more efficient and accurate,” Deputy Inspector Burke wrote in an e-mail.
The kiosk will also serve as an Election District locator. Voters will be able to punch in their address and find their election and assembly district. The board says the kiosk will also let poll workers punch in and out, making it easier to identify vacancies at sites and help with the payroll process.