CASSADAGA - Members of the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters had the opportunity Wednesday to be the first to see the operation of the new optical scan voting machine that will replace the current lever machines.
Speaking to the members at the White Horse Inn, County Board of Elections Commissioner Norman Green said the optical scanners will be available for handicapped/disabled voters to use this fall.
Under a court order, he said, this will be the last year lever machines will remain in operation in New York state.
OBSERVER Photo by Joan Josephson
Voting machine demo 002 - Chautauqua County election commissioner Norman Green and an assistant review the operation of a compact optical scan voting machine which will be replacing lever machines in the 2009 fall election.
"New York is dead last in adopting optical scan voting machines and it is being done under a federal mandate to make the transition from lever machines," he said.
In defense of the delay, Green said because other states have uncovered problems with various scanning operations, New York has had an advantage in its selection of which machine to use.
Green noted the new system provides privacy, security and a paper trail of the ballots cast.
That's because voters will have access to a curtained booth where they will mark paper ballots with their votes, place them in a privacy sleeve, then feed them into the scanner where they will be recorded and kept secure.
"Even though we believe the system we have selected for Chautauqua County is voter friendly, changeover can be complicated and we will do our best to educate the public on its use," he noted.
This education will be offered this year and next in preparation for the optical scan voting machine use in the fall of 2009 election.
The League of Women Voters will be assisting with this public education effort as well.
League president Marcia Merrins said demonstrations of an optical scan voting machine will be provided at this year's Fredonia Farm Festival.
"The League thinks a hands-on approach in educating the public will best serve the transition from lever to optic scan voting machines," she said.
Green said each polling site in the county will have the new voting machine available for handicapped/disabled voters this year and will replace the lever machines for the fall of 2009 elections.
The optic scanners cost $11,500 apiece with the federal government picking up 95 percent of this cost and the county paying for the balance.
"We put money aside for this cost and have already met our obligation in this regard.
"We think the opical scan operation will speed up the voting process," he said.
He also noted election inspectors will have to undergo training regarding the scanner's operation.
One League member who serves as an election inspector said she feels this training is vital.
"We still have voters coming to the polls who don't know how to operate a lever voting machine," she said.