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Lever Machines A Blast From Elections Past

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Tomorrow's primary election will have a retro twist, as the old mechanical lever machines are hauled out of retirement and pressed into duty. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Lever machines provide the sound of elections past.

But now, four years after they were last used in a city election, these 1960s era workhorses are being trotted out for one last spin.

More than 3,000 lever machines in all will be deployed at 1,300 polling places around the city.

Board of Elections officials say fears of voter confusion are overblown.

"The vast majority of the voters are very familiar with the lever machines. It was the first machine that I voted on. It was the machines that my parents were used to voting on. So this is not really a big change for most of the voters," said City Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan.

While a new electronic voting system was implemented in 2010, the short window this year between the primary and a potential runoff would not have left enough time to certify results, print millions of new ballots and re-program the new machines.

So, officials won approval from Albany to resurrect the old machines, which had been stowed away in a Brooklyn warehouse.

"Every machine was literally de-greased, then re-greased and tested pursuant to the protocols that were always in place prior to this election cycle," Ryan said.

For those who are new to the machines or need a refresher, officials helped demonstrate how to use them on Monday.

First, pull the lever to the right, mark your selections and then pull the lever back to the left.

"People like that whole tactile response, the sound of the lever machines getting in there. You feel like when you pull that lever, you’re really doing something, which maybe you don’t get that same visceral response when you’re filling an oval in on a piece of paper," Ryan said.

In case of breakdowns, spare machines will be deployed on trucks throughout the city, with 22 teams of technicians also in the field.

The authorizing legislation passed in Albany allows for use of the lever machines only in Tuesday's primary and any potential runoff.

For the general election in November, it's back to the electronic machines, with the Board of elections expected to come up with some solution going forward that ensures the lever machines are retired for good.

For more information on tomorrow's primary, voters can visit the Board of Elections website at vote.nyc.ny.us or call their information hotline at 866-VOTE-NYC.

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