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June 26, 2009

Area to try voting on optical scanners in 2009

All voters in Delaware County and thousands in Otsego County will cast ballots the new-fashioned way this year, on optical scanners.

The change comes as the New York State Board of Elections introduces voting equipment in a pilot program approved this month by federal Judge Gary Sharpe.

New York state, which was slow to change from lever-action to electronic voting machines, was sued in 2006 by the federal Department of Justice for failing to comply with the Help America Vote Act.

The case went to federal court and has led to the gradual introduction of new equipment at polling stations around the state.

Several weeks ago, the state Board of Elections proposed that new equipment be used more widely during the 2009 elections in pilot programs that vary from county to county.

Sharpe approved the request.

Otsego County's Republican Elections Commissioner Sheila Ross said Thursday her county opted to make the change gradually, having all voters in the 117th Assembly District use new equipment this year.

``We want to roll out machines in a few towns at first and spend time with our inspectors and voters to make sure everyone knows how to use them,'' she said.

The 117th Assembly District, which is represented by Republican Marc Butler of Newport, includes the Otsego County towns of Cherry Valley, Decatur, Maryland, Roseboom, Springfield, Westfield and Worcester.

In those towns, beginning with the Sept. 15 primary, if there's a contest, voters will cast ballots on Sequoia Imagecast optical scanners.

``It's new, but it's not too hard to learn,'' Ross said. ``You mark the ballot something like taking an SAT test.''

Delaware and Chenango counties were among several that decided to roll out all their new equipment this year, retiring lever machines that had been in service for decades and asking everyone to learn the new system.

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