SENATE ELECTIONS COMMITTEE HEARS WITNESSES AT PUBLIC HEARING ON PRIMARY DAY PROBLEMS WITH NEW VOTING MACHINES, POLL SITE OPERATIONS

 

Committee Seeks Practical Solutions to Implement for November 2 General Election


Queens, NY, September 29, 2010 -- On Wednesday, September 29, the NYS Senate’s Elections Committee held an afternoon public hearing to determine the extent and cause of problems that occurred with the introduction of paper ballots and optical scan voting machines in the September 14 Primary Day election.


The Committee heard from witnesses who included Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, State Board of Elections Chair Douglas A. Kellner and NYC Board of Elections Executive Director George Gonzalez. Witnesses testified about reports of late poll openings, missing equipment, poll worker confusion in setting up the optical scanners and ballot privacy issues, as well as solutions that can be implemented before the November 2 General Election, and general public acceptance of the new voting machines and the reported election results.  


“I have been determined to make sure that the transition to paper ballots and optical
scan voting machines makes it easier for people to vote, increases their participation
in elections and leaves our citizens feeling confident that their votes are being
accurately counted,” said NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-15th District-Queens), “The problems we had in the Primary Election, such as late poll openings and a lack of voter privacy, are matters of concern.  They are similar to problems we saw with the introduction of the new voting machines in a pilot program in 47 upstate counties in 2009.  In today’s hearing, we took a closer look at these problems so that we can find practical solutions and implement them before the November general election,” said Senator Addabbo, Chair of the Senate Elections Committee. 


Adds Senator Bill Perkins (D-30th District-Manhattan), “As Primary Day was the new
system’s maiden voyage, problems did occur. However, there were also a lot of successes on which we can now build. This hearing will help to identify the strengths we can build upon and in turn, allow us to look forward to a more successful General Election.”


Senator Daniel Squadron (D-25th District-Brooklyn/Manhattan) said, “There’s nothing
more important to democracy than the ability of citizens to participate in fair and
open elections.  The problems that New Yorkers experienced on Primary Day are unacceptable.  This hearing will allow us to gather public input on the problems that arose and how best to address them.  I thank Chair Addabbo and the Senate’s Standing Committee on Elections for conducting this important public hearing.”


Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections, said that he
was “very pleased overall” with the first election to use the new ballot scanners
statewide. “That’s not to say that it was problem-free.  We know that we need more
training for the state’s 60,000 poll workers, particularly to reinforce respect for
voter privacy and to make voters aware of the ballot marking devices.  If a voter
complains that it’s too hard to read the ballot, that voter should be using the ballot
marking device, which has a large-type screen that makes reading the ballot very easy.” 


"We cannot allow a repeat of Primary Day's chaos come November 2,” concluded Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “The Board of Elections owes voters a full accounting of what went wrong on Primary Day, and a clear plan to ensure voter privacy, timely
opening of poll sites, and properly trained poll workers on Election Day. With less
than five weeks left until voters go to the polls, I sincerely hope the Board of
Elections provides the State Senate Elections Committee with the answers we are all
seeking.”


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