Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Most New York Voters Lose Undervote Notification

The NY State Board of Elections met today and unanimously adopted an emergency regulation to turn off undervote notification on all tabulating ballot scanners. The undervote notification on accessible Ballot Marking Devices will not be affected.

The emergency regulation will be in effect for 90 days. At the end of that time, a permanent regulation will be promulgated.

Under the new regulation, the only voting machines or systems in New York that will warn voters that they have undervoted will be the accessible Ballot Marking Devices.

For decades, New York's lever voting machines have not permitted overvoting. Ballot scanners do permit overvoting, but in an effort to catch up with mechanical lever technology, the scanners must warn the voter about the effect of casting an overvoted ballot, per statute. This recent report from Florida, where excessive overvotes were partially responsible for the close results of the 2000 Presidential Election, reveals how the overvote warning system has been working with some of the same scanners that New Yorkers will be using.

Undervote as well as overvote notification, were both thought to be advantageous to voters when the original New York regulation was drafted. But concerns about confusing voters who wish to undervote intentionally in some contests, the need to keep the lines moving on Election Day, and the need for secrecy of voters' ballot choices prompted today's change.

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