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New York Pulls the Plug on Electronic Voting

January 30, 2008

Albany, NY - New Yorkers will be able to verify their votes in future elections, following a recent decision by the state Board of Elections. They opted to use optical paper ballots, instead of the electronic touch screens that many critics say are unreliable and can be tampered with. The ruling follows a long lobbying campaign by voter advocates who want to avoid computer-based election disputes like those currently under investigation in New Hampshire.

Bo Lipari, with New Yorkers For Verified Voting, believes paper ballots are the right choice.

"When you use paper ballots, we have the ability to look at the original record of the voter's vote. In a state like New Hampshire, when you have the paper ballot, you can do a recount, and you can get confidence that the results were accurate."

Touch-screen voting booths record electronically, but do not provide an independently verifiable record. Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition says the electronic system is error-prone and can be hacked into.

"Not only the people who are controlling the voting can do things so that one candidate wins over the other, someone just walking into the voting booth can actually do something. Those machines just are not safe, not at this time, and they're not going to be safe for many years to come."

A Princeton study found that the software recording touch-screen votes could be secretly altered, and that their vote databases and networks were vulnerable to viruses.

Diebold, the nation's leading supplier of touch-screen systems, insists that its systems are secure.

Lipari says the New York decision serves as an example to other states of how to maintain voter security and comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

"Other states went through purchasing touch-screen voting machines, and today are abandoning multi-million dollar investments for paper ballot systems. New York has had good fortune in that we're moving directly to paper ballots, and I think that's where the whole country will go."

The new system begins later this year with ballot machines for the disabled, followed by an expected transition in 2009, when reform advocates hope to replace levered ballot booths statewide with the new paper-based, optical-scan systems.

Robert Knight/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY