Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Ballot Marking Devices" Somewhat Discouraged on Roosevelt Island

Yesterday's election turnout by all accounts was light and on Roosevelt Island it was no different than anywhere else. As expected the only primary races (for Democrats) involved the Manhattan Surrogates Couty and Civil Court Judgeship. What was interesting was the presence of a new "Ballot Marking Device" whose use, at least on Roosevelt Island, was somewhat discouraged. With a high population of disabled on the island between the hospitals and residents one would think we might have had even two of such machines and higly trained advocates there to encourage its use.

Upon speaking with the poll workers it was clear that if a voter wanted to use the "ballot marking device" and asked to use it they could not refuse the request but as I was prompted to use it by an interested individual I was softly directed to vote normally via the old traditional lever controlled voting machines. After speaking with a few poll workers it appeared clear that using the new device was not an easy endeavor and I was told when it was tried a few times during the day it did not always work. The instruction card I was shown was not the most clear either.

It was also pointed out to me that the device is not easily tabulated and like regular paper ballots must be counted separately at the end of the day, something the poll workers were not thrilled about. I also got the impression that unless the races were tight counting such ballots would not be a priority. It almost sounds like the counting were to take place there by these workers which I did not believe is how it is done.

I will admit my interest, though prompted by the aforementioned interested party, was one of curiousity. It was only heightened upon learning that the operation of the machine did not appear easy for able bodied voters as opposed to the differently abled voters the machine was created for. My query to the workers was unless they get practice helping voters using the machine how well trained are they to help someone who must use it. I did not get too many replies.

1 comment:

  1. The Board of Elections seems to have picked workers at random to
    train on the ballot marking device (BDM). They received training but did not seem to be comfortable with the assignment.

    The truth is that this is a fancy way to mark a paper ballot.
    The procedure is cumbersome. The voter goes to their regular voting district table and must request to use the BDM. They are given a paper ballot and escorted to the one BDM in the site. The BDM operator inserts the
    ballot. The voter can then choose to operate the machine by hand, touching the screen, by hearing the instructions for the visually impaired, large print on the screen, by foot petal or by puffer.

    The two specially trained workers at the PS/IS 217 tried their best but the machine is cumbersome since it was placed in a large metal box to provide privacy. The
    box cover must be rearranged if
    one must access a stuck ballot in the machine.

    After the ballot is marked, it is put in a manila privacy folder and the voter is escorted back to their
    district table to deposit their ballot in the paper ballot box.

    If the Board of Elections wants anyone to use this device, or they got it to satisfy HAVA (Help America Vote act)it is time to bring this device to hospitals, senior centers and places where
    people who could benefit from the device could practice on it. This would also help train those charged with HELPING AMERICANS VOTE.