Buffalo, NY – Tuesday marks the end of an era for the old lever voting machine. Voters going to the polls across New York state now will cast their votes using an optical scan balloting system.
This isn't your grandfather's, or maybe even your great grandfather's voting machine. The old lever voting machines that were the standard across the state for more than a century are now officially history. Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward said the old machines have all gone to "voting machine heaven."
"They have been recycled - hopefully turned into a park bench somewhere. So, we're into a new era now," said Ward.
Erie County actually introduced the replacement system last year everywhere except in the city of Buffalo. Now, everyone statewide will use the optical scan system. Voters pencil in a bubble next to their choice on a paper ballot. It is then scanned by a machine that counts the vote. The paper ballot is saved as back-up.
Optical scans have been around for decades. But it was not until the federal Help America Vote Act that optical scans became a wide-spread option for voting. New York was the last state to choose a new system under the HAVA mandate. Ward said that has been an advantage.
"In this case, by the time New York chose the system that we have, a lot of the kinks had been worked out in other states," said Ward.
Ward said the only real issue they had last year was privacy. And he said that has been addressed. Over-voting is another potential problem. If a person mistakenly votes for more than one person the ballot is rejected. But Ward said they can recast their ballot. Joshua Dyck is a UB political professor. He said, once people get comfortable with the new technology, it will be great.
"This technology should serve to have a more accurate, more quickly counted, and more valid elections because of the paper trail that's created by the ballots," said Dyck.
Elections officials are encouraging voters to ask for help at their polling place if they have any questions.