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Local News -

September 6, 2008

Disabled voters finally have an option

Area voters will have their first exposure to ballot-marking devices in Tuesday's primaries.

Almost six years after the Help America Vote Act was signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 29, 2002, the machines will be available to disabled voters in New York. The devices are said to resolve problems caused by punch-card voting systems in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

Locally, there are primaries in Otsego and Schoharie counties, but voters in Delaware and Chenango counties will have to wait until November to see the automated voting machines in action.

All four counties are planning to have one new machine available at every polling place for disabled voters, but the majority of voters will still use the old-fashioned lever-operated machines this year.

The new machines, referred to as BMDs, are equipped with a monitor, speakers and a control that looks like it was borrowed from a video game. The hand control has large, color-coded buttons that are labeled in Braille. Earphones are used to allow the voters to listen to the names and mark the ballots privately.

On Thursday, Robin Alger, Delaware County Republican deputy election commissioner, demonstrated the voting process on a BMD, a process that can take 30 minutes.

Alger said a modified version of the ballot-counting process is being used this year to tally votes cast on the BMDs, but next year all votes cast will be counted by the optical scanner.

It comes with instructions

The monitor displays a simple set of instructions to teach the voter how to use the hand control, directing the voter to push different buttons to advance through the demonstration and eventually get to the ballot.

The machine reads every position and the names of the candidates for each contest. The voter makes a choice, which is marked on the ballot displayed on the monitor.

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