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Report: NY State Voting Machines Really Suck (Mother Jones)

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 07:52 PM
Original message
Report: NY State Voting Machines Really Suck (Mother Jones)
Edited on Thu Dec-08-11 07:55 PM by Bill Bored

Report: NY State Voting Machines Really Suck
By Siddhartha Mahanta
Wed Dec. 7, 2011 6:30 AM PST

All is not well with the state of New York's voting machines, according to a recent study by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice:

As many as 60,000 of the votes cast in New York State elections last year were voided because people unintentionally cast their ballots for more than one candidateThe excess-voting was highest in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods, including two Bronx election districts where 40 percent of the votes for governor were disqualified.

The studyblamed software used with new electronic optical-scan voting machines as well as ambiguous instructions for disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters. The old mechanical lever-operated machines did not allow votes for more than one candidate for the same office... (T)he authors estimate that more than 100,000 votes could be disqualified in next years presidential balloting, since more people will vote in the national election.

As the Brennan Center, NAACP New York State Conference, and other civil rights and good government groups argue, the New York machines failed to meet the protection standards put in place by 2002's Help America Vote Act that include providing voters with clear instructions on how to make sure their vote was processed.
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TreasonousBastard Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 08:18 PM
Response to Original message
1. The machines we used clearly indicated when there was an overvote and...
voters were given the option of filling out a new ballot or just letting it go.

A small percentage of them just let it go. Other places may have let more of them go, or the pollworkers just fell down on the job.

The lever machines are gone, scrapped. Get over it.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 08:37 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Wrong as usual. Lever machines are routinely used in some local elections, per NY State Law.
Edited on Thu Dec-08-11 08:40 PM by Bill Bored
And how do YOU know that the scanners were not misprogrammed so as to not even give the overvote warning in some neighborhoods? The Brennan Center doesn't know that and neither do you. No one can examine the ballots to see if voters REALLY overvoted as much as the scanners say they did. No one can obtain recounts of the paper ballots in close elections or examine them to count overvotes, undervotes, switched votes or actual votes.

The voting system you keep defending is indefensible without major changes that our party hacks will probably never allow. Rather than defending it, you should be one of those trying to motivate change. It's not just about lever machines. If you want to count votes with computers, there are certain legal, scientific and moral prerequisites. We have none of them in NY at this time, nor are we likely to in the foreseeable future.

And no, I won't "get over it."

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TreasonousBastard Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-08-11 10:47 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Which ones? All the EDs I know of were ordered to junk the lever machines...
Edited on Thu Dec-08-11 10:50 PM by TreasonousBastard
besides, having worked with the new ones and been involved with recounts and tests, I am well aware that you CAN look at the ballots to see where the overvotes were, just as you can look at them in a recount. You just can't tell who did it, or who they intended to vote for. It's a problem, but no more than any other and not one to doom democracy itself.

When a voter is told he or she overvoted and the vote won't count, that voter is free to vote again or let it go. Letting it go is tantamount to not voting for an office-- just as they were free to do with the levers. The entire ballot is not cancelled.

I'll admit that there may be other machines in other counties that aren't as smart as ours are, since we have several choices of machine, but you still have to get over it because the levers aren't coming back. If you really want to do something helpful, work for better training for the poll workers. If you really think machines were programmed to ignore overvoting, fight with the BoEs you suspect let that happen.

On edit...

Yeah, I forgot school board and other such elections can still use the levers if they're still around.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 01:01 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. I think you need to read more about this.
Edited on Fri Dec-09-11 01:04 AM by Bill Bored
Sorry but I just don't think you've spent enough time educating yourself, or else you're being deliberately obtuse.

The only "recounts" in NY other than the 3% spot checks are recounts of absentee ballots. The courts have denied requests for hand counts of precinct-counted paper ballots, even in the closest and most crucial elections. These ballots account for about 95% of the vote. If the courts say a candidate should just take office, that's the end of the game.

Members of the public may NOT recount ballots. They may witness a "recanvass" but this is NOT a recount.

If the Brennan Center couldn't get hold of the ballots, I doubt anyone else could. They got lawyers. Most of us do not. Those of us who do, such as candidates, can't even get their ballots recounted. What makes you think anyone else can?

If we aren't going to recount enough paper ballots by hand to see who won our elections, we would be much better off without computerized voting systems. They are too easy to maliciously exploit and they make unpredictable errors that cannot be detected without hand counts.

Some may think it's OK to recount using an "independent" computer system. I'm not going to split that hair in this thread because the requirements of such a system are too complex to discuss here.

You should at least read the Brennan Center report to see what their complaint is. Voters should not HAVE to decide whether to cast an overvoted ballot by pressing a green button or a red one. The ballot should be returned to the voter first and the warning message should tell the voter that their vote(s) will NOT be counted for the overvoted contest(s) if they cast the ballot. As you've said, NY's scanners do NOT automatically return the ballot to the voter. The overvote error message generated by NY's scanners is a violation of HAVA if it's used in a federal election.

So we have a voting system that does not even comply with federal law, much less the constitutional rights of voters.
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TreasonousBastard Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 01:36 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Since I actually worked with this stuff, I need a lot less education than you think...
The spot checks have shown the machines to accurately count, but you obviously don't care about that. Hand recounts are not only allowed, but I have been involved with one in the last Congressional race. You are confusing a particular deal in a particular court with the reality of what happens in a contested election. And, just where is "the public" allowed to see ballots? Or the wheels in the old lever machines, for that matter. Even poll watchers are only allowed to hear the totals, and not allowed to see the tapes, or the backs of the old lever machines. (Although this is often, properly or not, at the discretion of the poll coordinator)

I won't argue argue that a ballot shouldn't be spit out if there's an overvote, just like it's spit out if it's unreadable, but that's not the machine's fault. It's the way the BoE wants it, so go argue with them.

Beat the dead horse all you want, but the machines are not going away. Better you should waste your time trying to improve them.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 02:15 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Cite the case please. Tell me who got a 100% hand count in a Congressional election in NY.
Edited on Fri Dec-09-11 02:17 AM by Bill Bored
It was NOT CD-1 in 2010, because in that race, the Dem wanted a full hand recount until he took the lead in that race when the absentee ballots were counted. After that, there was NO talk of a recount from the Dems and the Repubs seemed to give up.

Re Senate District 7 in Nassau, the highest court in the state denied a recount request. That was also in 2010 and the court said such a recount had never been done. Were they uninformed?

I will admit I forgot to mention something: Within NYC, there is a local regulation that requires a recount for close elections. It slipped my mind because I don't think it ever happened since we've gone to precinct-count scanners with millions of paper ballots. So this regulation still needs to be tested in that context.

So tell me, which NY Congressional race had a 100% hand count?
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TreasonousBastard Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 03:31 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. I never said it was a 100% hand count. Do you have any idea what that would cost? But, we...
were passing around the collection plate in case it came to that.

Now, go back to beating your dead horse. I'm done with this.

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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 03:55 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. Oh, I see. So what percentage of the ballots were actually counted by hand then?
Edited on Fri Dec-09-11 04:06 AM by Bill Bored
As far as what it would cost, I wonder how much you think our democracy is worth, but the answer to your question is: it would probably cost about 15 a vote to count them all by hand.

Columbia County, which uses the same scanners as CD-1 (Suffolk County) uses, does 100% hand counts of ALL contests. They can probably tell you exactly how much it costs.

You seem to think that hand counts aren't necessary to confirm the outcomes of close elections. So just hand count those absentee ballots and let the scanners do the rest -- overvotes, undervotes and all, right?

Do you really think I'm beating a dead horse?

Have you ever heard the names Al Gore and Al Franken? They have more in common than just their first names.

The first Al would have been President if all the votes were counted in FL in the year 2000, or alternately, if Florida had run their elections on lever voting machines.

The second Al got to be a US Senator because they at least tried to count all the votes in his home state of Minnesota, despite what the machines said.

What the 2 Als had in common was a very close election. Here in NY, we've opted for the Florida solution, i.e., DO NOT EVEN TRY TO COUNT ALL THE VOTES.

I suspect that New Yorkers are so used to trusting machines, because they were REAL nuts and bolts machines, that it's going to take a while before they realize they shouldn't be trusting computers to count votes.

Heck, the press and some of our election lawyers still call absentee ballots "paper ballots," as if they're the only paper ballots in the state, and they still say a hand count of those few ballots is a "recount!":wtf:
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 05:41 AM
Response to Reply #5
10. So it's the BoE's Fault?
Edited on Fri Dec-09-11 05:41 AM by Wilms
That much we agree on. They're the ones who authorized use of these machines, not HAVA.

Are you serious about "spot checks"? We've been over this time and time again. What do they prove? Bo Bots don't WANT to get.

And you've been involves in recounts? Are you a judge? In the SD7 race the COURT decided the race turning control of the state senate to Republicans. Just like FLORIDA in 2000. But, but, but Bo said we have paper which can be recounted. And you say recounts are expensive? How much did SD7 costs voters? How much does 60,000 lost votes costs?

Talk about beating a dead horse.
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 03:16 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. See post #7

New York party hacks think spot checks are fine, as long as their candidate is ahead -- and this applies to both major parties! Only when they're behind, or fall behind in the absentee ballot counts, do they think spot checks of the other 95% of the vote aren't enough. The CD-1 race in 2010 is a great example of this hypocrisy. When the Dem appeared to be losing, they were calling for a full hand count. But when he pulled ahead in the absentee ballot count, we heard nothing but crickets chirping.

The losers either concede or go to court, but the courts tell them to piss off because the courts trust the voting computers. We can thank all the hype about the "rigorous certification process" for that misguided opinion.

I suspect TB thinks hand counts would be expensive because of the fees they generate for election lawyers. The cost of actually counting the ballots just ain't that high. If it were, Columbia County would not do 100% hand counts. But they don't pay lawyers' fees to count their ballots and they avoid costly litigation by doing so, rather than allowing the courts to decide who wins. That's a system that's fair, and it works!

The voters are getting screwed in every other county in New York.
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zalinda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 02:05 AM
Response to Original message
6. I hate the new machines too
I have absolutely no idea if my vote counted or not. I did not even get a receipt. Voting with these machines does not give you any satisfaction, the lever machines made you feel like you were important and that your vote mattered.

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johnb72341js Donating Member (18 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-24-11 03:48 AM
Response to Original message
12. nvm
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