Senate Passes Bills to Allow Lever Machine Voting

Phil Boyle

May 06, 2013

Legislation Would Allow Machine Voting for NYC Elections;  Also in Villages, School Districts and Special Districts

The New York State Senate today passed two bills that would allow for the use of  lever-style voting machines in non-federal elections in New York City, and in elections held by villages, school districts and special districts.

Legislation (S4088B) would allow New York City to use lever voting machines for all non-federal elections, including the upcoming primary, run-off and general elections this fall.  In addition, the bill would to move the date for a potential run-off election in New York City from September 24th to October 1st  to avoid a conflict with the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

The lever voting machines had been successfully used in New York for over 100 years. They have proven to be reliable and easy for voters to use.  In addition,  using lever voting machines will expedite the canvass of votes cast in the primary election and reduce the number of paper ballots that would need to be hand-counted. 

This year, the City of New York faces the prospect of three elections over a two-month period -- the primary, a run-off primary, and the general election. The offices up for election this year include Mayor, City Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough President, and all of the City Council seats.

The City cannot risk the possibility that the new voting systems will fail to provide a full and fair election. This bill gives the City the necessary authority to use a voting process that has proven to work in the past and alleviate what could be an unnecessarily chaotic election.
To accommodate the disabled voters, the legislation requires that if lever voting machines are used, each polling place must have a voting machine designed to allow voting by disabled voters. These voting systems are already owned and used by the Board of Elections.

In addition, the Senate also passed legislation (S3705) that would allow school districts, special districts and villages to permanently continue using lever voting machines in their respective local elections. This legislation would remove the 2014 sunset of provisions and permanently allow the use lever voting machines.

School districts and villages have expressed a preference to continue using the lever-style voting machines. This legislation would provide significant relief to local school districts, villages and special districts from the Help America Vote Act mandate.  HAVA was intended to apply only to federal elections that have higher voter turnout.

The bills have been sent to the Assembly.