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Board Of Elections Tests Next Generation Voting Machines

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The State Board of Elections began testing the next generation of voting machines Thursday.

Six machines from different companies are set to be tested over the next few days. State officials will be looking for efficiency and ease of use, particularly for those with disabilities. All of the machines being tested were designed to retain something of the look and feel of the paper ballots voters are used to using.

Testers used six different voting systems, including some with big touch screens, such as one designed by Avante International.

"What will happen is you will get one of these smart cards, give them to a poll worker, insert them into that little box, you will pick your language and it brings up this nice full-face ballot for you and from here is just touch and go," said Kevin Dulin from Avante International.

Another machine tested was made by Liberty Election Systems. The ballot face looks similar to the one currently used by the state, but also has a keypad that lights up.

"It's easily transportable and stores in a very efficient manner, lowering the cost of ownership to the municipality or county that would purchase the equipment," said Robert Witko of Liberty Election Systems.

Cost is a big factor. After the State chooses which of the machines pass muster, it will be left to each county to choose the one they want to buy. The city Board of Elections will decide which ones to use in the five boroughs.

New Yorkers who signed up to test the machines were paid $30 for 45 minutes of mock voting.

"They're going to love it because it's faster,” said one tester. “They don't have to be studying. They could see the letters, pull it down and go in and let you know when to vote and how you voted. It's nice. I love it.”

As it stands, New York is in violation of a federal law requiring the state to upgrade its voting system. Earlier this year, the Justice Department sued the state for non-compliance.

"We can't deploy voting systems that haven't been fully tested," said Robert Brehm of the state Board of Elections. "We have standards, we are going to test to those standards, and the machines that meet those standards will be eligible to be certified."

Those standards include language options, a backup system to verify votes and access for those with disabilities.

Testers who spoke with NY1 said they were pleased with the choices available.

"They're better than the old machines," said one tester. "I didn't have to strain my eyes with the new machines."

"It's easier to do and much easier for people with disabilities to access them," added another.

The State Board of Elections says it will have the test results by December and will make its machine selection early next year.

The state hopes to roll out the new machines by spring, although their first real test won't come until 2008.

If all goes according to plan the machines should be ready for the next presidential election in 2008.
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