Board of Elections chooses vendor for new voting machines

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Eight years after the federal government ordered states to update their voting machines with new electronic devices, the city Board of Elections selected a vendor Tuesday in a vote.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was signed into law to help states change their voting machines following the 2000 election debacle in which former President George W. Bush’s win was bitterly contested. The legislation ordered the new machines to be put in place by the 2006 elections, but the state missed the deadline.

While the states were responsible for choosing the machines, New York decided to let individual counties decide on the new devices but was slow in approving acceptable machines. It eventually found two companies — Elections Systems & Software and Dominion Voting — to meet the state’s standards.

The state was so sluggish in going through the process that the U.S. Department of Justice sued and warned it would take away $180 million New York received to update its voting machines under the HAVA, although that never happened.

In a vote Tuesday, the BOE commissioners decided to go with Elections Systems & Software.

The board said the new machines will be used by this September’s primary elections.

The device voted on by the board, called the ES&S DS200, is a portable electronic voting system that uses an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots.

The board said the new machine allows for paper ballots to be immediately counted at the polling site and the system notifies voters of any errors they may have made and allows the voter to correct the issue.It creates a paper trail.

“The Board of Elections approached this federally mandated change in our election process in a thoughtful, comprehensive and transparent manner,” said Julie Dent, one of the commissioners, in a statement. “However, we could not act until New York state certified the voting systems that meet state standards.”

“Ensuring that every New Yorker’s vote is counted accurately remains the board’s No. 1 goal,” she said. “We believe the DS200 poll site voting system will provide the accuracy and security that are essential in the voting process.”

BOE Commissioner Juan Carlos “J.C.” Polanco said the board was scheduled to launch a voter education program so voters will know how to use the new machines when they are to be used in the September primaries.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 10:28 am, October 12, 2011
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