Odds are you're not bothering to vote in today's primary, so here's a taste of what awaits next time you decide to give a shit about representative democracy. Gone are the big old clunky lever machines, which always gave us the satisfying sensation of beheading our most loathed politicians. Now all voters in New York State are using paper ballots, which are then optically scanned into machines operated by Election Systems and Software [ES&S] of Omaha, Nebraska. That company's had some problems, like allocating votes cast in one race to an entirely different race that wasn’t even on the electronic ballot.
ES&S , which won the $70 million contract in January, has also been criticized for operating machines that accept incorrectly filled-out ballots, instead of spitting the ballots back out automatically and letting voters redo it. Instead, the machine will ask you whether you want to return the flawed ballot or cast your erroneous vote, which will then be rejected. The old machines physically prevented overvoting like this, and the NAACP and the Working Families Party, along with other groups, have filed a lawsuit challenging how the ES&S machines handle overvoting. "The new overvote procedure that New York has adopted on these new machines will disenfranchise minority voters and especially African-American voters at far higher rates than white voters," one attorney told the Wall Street Journal, citing voting statistics from Florida.
In our Williamsburg precinct, the Board of Elections volunteer handed us the paper ballot and told us to go "bubble" it. So we bubbled away, filling in little ovals similar to an SAT test. (Our decisions were carefully based on which bubbles would collectively make a picture of a kitty.) Then it was over to the scanner, which sucked our ballot into the matrix. Our little token ritual of participation in the political process is now in your hands, ES&S! It seemed to go pretty smoothly, but things aren't going so well for would-be voters in one Westchester suburb, where 3 of 5 new electronic voting machines were out of service when polls opened, the AP reports. NYC is the last municipality in the U.S. to adopt electronic voting machines for elections, so pour one out for analog.