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Upper West Side Forum to Tackle Issues With State's New Voting Machines

By Leslie Albrecht | June 28, 2010 2:59pm | Updated on June 28, 2010 2:32pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — With a lawsuit raising questions about New York’s new electronic voting machines, advocacy groups said they’ll voice their concerns at a public forum on the Upper West Side Monday night.

The event, to be held at 7:30 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church at 6 West 96th St., will feature Board of Elections officials demonstrating how the new machines work, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The forum comes on the same day the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections on behalf of the NAACP, the Working Families Party and other groups.

Lawyers for the Brennan Center say the machines allow voters to “over-vote,” meaning to cast more than one vote for a particular candidate, but don’t explain what over-voting is, and don’t notify voters that such errors could lead to a great number of votes being thrown out.

Voters can test drive New York's new voting machines at a public demonstration Monday night on the Upper West Side.
Voters can test drive New York's new voting machines at a public demonstration Monday night on the Upper West Side.
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NY State Board of Elections

Lawrence Norden, senior counsel for the Brennan Center, said the problem affects low-income and minority voters in particular.

Douglas Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, called the over-voting problem “a very minor issue," according to the New York Times.

Other advocacy groups said over-voting isn’t the only cause for concern.

Paul Bunten, board president of Westsiders for Public Participation, said he’s worried the new system leaves ballots exposed to public view for too long. With the new system, voters mark their ballots, then carry them to a scanner to be read.

“The secret ballot is not about protecting the privacy of the voter, it’s about protecting the integrity of the voting system from undue influence,” Bunten said.

The new machines will be used for the first time in the Sept. 14 primary election.

Cristopher Rodriguez, Queens County coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian group, said he plans to hand out literature and question elections officials at tonight’s demonstration.

Rodriguez said electronic voting systems, which were federally mandated after the 2000 election, leave elections vulnerable to fraud.

“I think there are really a lot of questions about integrity,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a grave concern that people should have.”