Optical scanning machines don't ruin elections, people ruin elections. Election watchdogs tell WNYC that the new voting machines aren't to blame all the problems at polling sites Tuesday, it was mostly due to good old-fashioned human error. Some of the machines did malfunction, but it seems that most of the delays were caused by a galling lack of preparation. The Times reports that six days before the primary, state election officials agreed to let the city’s Board of Elections cut short tests on some of its voting machines because time was running out.
"It was an unusual request," Douglas A. Kellner, co-chairman of the State Board of Elections, tells the Times. "It’s always annoying when someone comes to you at the last minute and says, ‘Gee, we didn’t know it would take this long,’ and you say, ‘Well, why did you wait this long to figure it out?" In a statement, the city Board of Elections says, "The New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Board of Elections did not fully comprehend the time requirements for the intensive methodology of testing required."
Because of the lack of preparation, workers were not armed with basic facts. For example, some polling sites opened hours late because the machines hadn't arrived or because no one had the keys to turn them on. Voters were turned away and told to come back later, but they should have been allowed to fill out a paper ballot, to be scanned later. "When the machines break down, people can still vote," Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice tells WNYC. "People can still be given their ballot... and they can be put in an auxiliary bin, so the fact that poll workers didn't know enough and the people running the polls didn't know enough to take advantage of that benefit is very troubling."
John S. Groh, the totally unbiased senior vice president of Elections System and Software, which manufactured the voting machines used in New York, tells the Times he thinks "the process worked well in New York." And he says a lot of the problems were caused by Rosh Hashana, because all the machines would have been delivered "by Saturday night if everything had been a normal weekend and a normal Friday." Impressively, it took two whole days for somebody to blame the Jews!