The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports


November 10, 2012

Voting without the lever just isn't the same


Or so I thought.

By 2002, I had moved to Oneonta with my now-husband, and was registered to vote in time for that year’s election. So you can imagine my glee when I walked into St. James’ Episcopal Church and was ushered over to an old-fashioned lever machine to cast my ballot.

I’ll never forget that feeling when I closed the curtain behind me and contemplated the illuminated board. Pulling that great big lever and hearing the satisfying “ka-chunk” sound, signifying that my vote had been cast, was such a great feeling.

And now that’s gone too.

Don’t get me wrong - I understand that those old lever machines were not long for this world. They were relics, for which new parts were no longer being made and technical support no longer available. And with the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act in 2002, it became clear that New York state would have to modernize its voting process.

This is a laudable goal. But it’s unfortunate that the states have been pushed around by companies such as Diebold, which made every effort to convince states that touch-screen machines were the only way to comply with the law.

Fortunately for us, New York chose to go with machines that read a paper ballot, rather than touch-screen machines that lack a paper trail. But there are still widespread concerns about how secure and accurate any electronic voting machine can be.

For a chilling, if decidedly partisan, analysis of how susceptible voting machines are to fraud, check out Victoria Collier’s article titled “How to Rig an Election” in Harper’s.

It’s naive to think that there wasn’t fraud - or at least the potential for it - years ago when my mother was stepping into that little makeshift booth down at the Grange hall. But as Collier writes, “Electronic voting systems allow insiders to rig elections on a statewide or even national scale. And whereas once you could catch the guilty parties in the act, and even dredge the ballot boxes out of the bayou, the virtual vote count can be manipulated in total secrecy.”

Compared to the problems Collier describes, Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is sounding pretty good. And the lever machines are looking better than ever.

So is it any wonder I still long for a simpler time?

Emily F. Popek is assistant editor of The Daily Star. She can be reached at 432-1000, ext. 217, or

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