Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh met with Erie County’s election commissioners in Buffalo, New York on October 1, 2009 for a discussion of Erie’s new paper ballot and optical scanner voting system. Under the new system, voters cast their votes on paper ballots similar to the answer sheets often used for standardized testing in schools. The ballots are then scanned immediately at the poll site so the votes can be tabulated when the polls close. The scanning machines also store all ballots cast, to maintain a verifiable “paper trail” that can later be used for recounts or audits of election results. Erie County has implemented the system, as a pilot program, in this past September’s primary elections, and will test it further in next month’s general elections.
Commissioners Dennis Ward and Ralph Mohr, who hand-counted paper ballots from the recent election to verify the scanners’ accuracy, provided a useful perspective on the challenges inherent in implementing a new voting system and their experiences in Erie. Paper ballot and optical scanner voting systems are currently scheduled to be deployed throughout New York State in time for the 2010 elections.
Kavanagh, who chairs the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement, welcomes input from constituents and other interested parties on issues related to voting rights and the administration of elections. If you have any suggestions or concerns, please contact Ames Grawert in Kavanagh’s district office at 212-979-9696.