New voting machine tryouts planned around Delaware County

By Brian Sweeney
Area voters will have the opportunity to try out Delaware County’s new voting machines on Thursday, Aug. 6 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Middletown Town Hall on Route 28, Margaretville.
The new voting system will also be available for public demonstrations on Monday, Aug. 10 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Roxbury Town Hall on Main Street, Roxbury and on Wednesday, Aug. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Delaware County Office Building at 111 Main Street, Delhi.
The new voting booths combine technology with a trace of old-fashioned hand ballots. After registering, voters will receive paper ballots. The ballots will be taken to tables that are surrounded by privacy screens. There, voters will use special pens to mark their ballot choices.
The voting instructions (how many people to vote for, etc.) are listed at the top of the ballot. Votes are made by using the special pens to check the appropriate boxes. There is also space for listing write-in candidates.
Once the ballots have been marked, voters will place the ballots into a scanner on the voting machine that will read the ballot. In the event that a voter wishes to review a budget, there is a return button on the scanner. If a voter wishes to change their ballot, they must obtain a new one from an election inspector.
After it has passed through the scanner, the paper ballot is deposited into a secure bin. The paper ballots are then kept by the board of elections and can be used for hand counts in the case of close or disputed elections.

Handicapped accessible
In addition to utilizing the scanning device, the new voting machines are also designed to be handicapped accessible. The Ballot Marking Device utilizes a computer stream, head phones, foot pedals and a sip-and-puff device (the mouth-controlled input that provides people with quadriplegia a simple and effective way to control mouse movement), so that voters with disabilities can fill out ballots that look like the ones marked by hand.
Election inspectors will assist disabled voters with utilizing the Ballot Marking Device.
The new system will be utilized throughout Delaware County in primary voting on September 15 and in the General Election on November 3.
The new machines will also be used this fall in portions of Otsego and Schoharie counties. The high-tech voting devices are being implemented as part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act. New York has been among the states that were late in adopting the provisions spelled out in the voting act.
Election inspectors throughout Delaware County are receiving training to assist voters as they get used to the new machines. To date, the county has purchased 30 new voting machines.
Because of the technology involved, the new machines must be stored in climate-controlled areas. The machines must also be tested on a regular basis to ensure accuracy.