Groups warn against voting machine option being considered for NY

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Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Legislators and advocates raise questions about how disability-friendly new voting machines will be.

Common Cause New York and Disability Rights New York are calling attention to new voting technologies they say will make it difficult for disabled voters to cast their ballot in upcoming elections.

As the state Board of Elections is in the final stages of certifying the new machines, disability rights groups are asking the agency to reject the new machines because they say they are hard to read, can be confusing for those who are hard of hearing, are expensive and they are prone to undercounting votes.

The voting machines, ExpressVoteXL, operate as a touch-screen machine and are completely technology centered, as opposed to the traditional paper-ballot voting system that has been in place up until now.

Common Cause/NY also dropped off thousands of petitions from New Yorkers across the state against the machine.

The New York State Board of Elections is currently in the final stages before it does, or does not, certify the new voting machine. Common Cause says that the company that makes the machine has spent more than $600,000 lobbying New York state officials. Common Cause released a report that details reasons they say the machine should not be used in the upcoming elections.

“It’s deeply upsetting that the ExpressVoteXL, the technology that is under consideration for certification by New York State, has real questions regarding its ability to satisfy any of those basic standards—accessibility, security and accuracy,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, D-Queens, expressed her uncertainty surrounding the ExpressVoteXL in terms of accessibility and accuracy, noting the many unanswered questions New Yorkers have in regards to the new machines.

“Until we have all of those questions answered, until we know that this machine is going to open up more access rather than hinder a person’s ability to exercise their right to vote, I have no intent of supporting anything like that,” Cruz said.

From Left, Christina Asbee, Susan Lerner and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz urge New York to reconsider implementation of new voting machines they say will limit accessibility to disabled voters.

The biggest problem that good government groups and disability rights advocates with these machines, they says, is that the audio read back feature intended to assist voters who are hard of hearing makes it difficult to confirm voter’s choices and it does not include the political party associated with each candidate.

Additionally, for those with low vision or blindness, the keyboard on these machines could be hard to navigate and the font on the printed ballots is not easy to read, they said.

“While this device is used in an equal way meaning that everybody votes on the touchscreen device, it inevitably has problems with the accessibility feature and we’re not sure at this time whether or not this device will truly meet the needs of people with disabilities,” Christina Asbee of Disability Rights New York said.

In addition to limits on accessibility, the ExpressVoteXL is prone to extreme undercounts of votes. In November of last year, an election in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, a candidate was recorded as having 164 votes on election night, but after a manual recount the same candidate had over 26,000 votes, winning the race.

Lerner emphasized, “This election is too important for any voters to have any doubt that their vote is being accurately, so let’s stick with the paper.”