Though New York was required to replace its Lever Voting machines a decade ago, it's possible the dust could be blown off those old gray behemoths later this year.
“The New York City [Board of Elections] commissioners have mentioned that they are considering using the lever voting machines for the runoff election,” State Board co-Chair Douglas Kellner said during a meeting on Monday.
At issue is whether the New York City Board can program Electronic machines in time for a Runoff Election in this year’s Citywide Primary Elections. Such a race would be held two weeks after the Sept. 12th Primary if no candidate receives 40% of the vote.
The City Board notes that while the idea came up during its most recent meeting, it hasn’t actually made a request to use the machines yet or even decided that would be the best way to go.
“Right now, executive management has been tasked with the responsibility of preparing a general overview of the options for the commissioners,” said Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the City Board. “Until such time as that overview has been completed and presented to the various commissioners, we will have no public comment on the various options.”
Ryan said the idea that was raised by a Commissioner from Queens was simply due to “good preparedness by a government entity” that wanted to consider all options in preparing for the difficulties created by a runoff.
The State Board disagrees with the suggestion that reprogramming the machines in under two weeks is impossible.
“Our staff has consistently argued that there is no reason to use the lever machines, that there is sufficient time to do the testing,” Kellner said.
But the issue of whether the City could use the machines rests with the State Legislature, which has approved similar exemptions over the arguments of the State Board in the past. Assemblyman Michael Cusick, who Chairs the Chamber's Elections Committee, was noncommittal on the idea.
“We want to work with the Board of Elections to make sure that there’s a smooth election for the runoff,” Cusick said. “This has always been an issue. I think that if [lever machines are] an option they’re going to bring to us, we will look at it, but we want to look at all options and listen to all parties involved, and I know we are starting those conversations, because the runoff is getting close.”
Federal Law passed in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election provided New York with money to replace the Lever machines. But the State took so long to agree on a new type of device that it missed its deadline of having them in place in time for the 2007 Elections and was sued by the Justice Department.
While the new Optical-Scanning machines were in place by 2010, Lever Machines have periodically reappeared. They’ve been used in some School Board Elections, and were used for the 2013 Primary and Runoff races in New York City after problems with the Electronic devices in the prior year.
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