Why I prefer NY’s new polls

The United States required New York state to change their polling machines. The old machines required people to walk into a curtained booth, pull a lever, mark their votes by flipping a switch for each position/policy decision, and push the lever again.

The new voting process debuted in the September primary and was panned by many voters, including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, I prefer the new voting process.
Old and new polling layout
1. Location, location, location: Under the old process the back of the machine faced the people. The curtain was supposed to protect the voter’s privacy, but too often had gaps which deprived the voter of privacy. The new process has 3-sided enclosed stands that opens facing a wall. No one can see from in front of you, and there IS no one behind you to see what you are doing.

2. Simplicity: The old machine required the voter to understand how the machine organizes information and polls. The new ballot is a piece of paper that just requires the voter to fill in ovals in appropriate places.

3. Write-In: The new process makes putting in a write-in candidate extremely simple. The old machines made it very complicated to write-in a vote. There were a few elections that I wanted to write-in a candidate, but I couldn’t get the machine to allow me to do so and I couldn’t ask for help with out….

4. Privacy: Because of the simplicity of voting and the ease of writing in a candidate, voters don’t need as much help from poll volunteers. Poll volunteers’ help decrease privacy. I once asked a volunteer for help under the old system. She saw my ballot and chewed me out for not voting for the candidates she preferred.

5. Speed: The old process had one dedicated polling booth per district. If one district had 10 people waiting to vote, and another district in that same polling center had none, the 10 people had to wait in a queue to use their district’s machine while the machine wasn’t used. Under the new process the enclosed stands and the scanning machines can be used by anyone from any of the districts.

6. Pressure: Because of the bottleneck that built up from the wait time to use your district’s voting booth, there was a lot of pressure to vote quickly. In fact, I’ve seen polling volunteers get upset with voters who took too long in the voting booth. Under the new system there isn’t the same pressure, so people have more time to mark their ballots correctly and answer all the ballot initiatives completely.

There are two caveats.
1. Type: It was rather small and probably difficult to read for people with sight issues.

2. Layers: There were so many candidates for governor that it went onto two rows. People might have gotten confused and thought they were supposed to vote for one from the first row and one from the second row.

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5 Responses to “Why I prefer NY’s new polls”

  1. Josh Says:

    I personally prefer the old system for the following reasons (won’t repeat type/layout of the ballot since you’ve mentioned it):

    1. Double sided ballots are not a good idea, too easy for people to ignore

    2. No certainty if you’ve filled in the circles correctly and/or if your votes will actually count (think hanging chad issues).

    3. It doesn’t work – I had 5 paper jams and couldn’t enter the thing myself.

    4. Privacy – One of the assts had to feed it it in himself, trying both sides, thus viewing my personal ballot. Def more noticeable than any “gap” I’ve encountered in the older system.

    5. Not my idea originally, but the booths allowed to bring kids in for educational purposes.

    6. Cost – For however much money it took to get this system up, it’s really not worth it.

    • alarbean Says:

      1. I think the double-sided ballot is a wash with the old process that often had ballot initiatives off to the far right and unnoticeable. At least in the polling station I was in, the volunteers reminded each voter that the ballot was double-sided.

      2. The machine is supposed to tell you if a circle isn’t fully filled in, but I agree a fully electronic voting process would be preferable.

      3. I don’t know why yours jammed. That is frustrating to be sure. Mine went in the first time without assistance.

      4. That sucks. (At least he wasn’t pressuring you to change your ballot.) I’m not sure why the assistant tried to scan it upside down, the person at my polling place made it clear that I should do it upside up.

      5. I don’t see why children can’t be there under the new system. In fact, it should make it easier since there’s a decreased time-pressure.

      6. They had no choice. The federal government required them to make the change. However, I agree they should have used to money to create a fully electronic system instead.

  2. a bourbon for silvia Says:

    this was really, really interesting to read, mister 🙂

  3. alarbean Says:

    The reason the type was so small was because they were legally required to keep all candidates on one piece of paper. (I guess they couldn’t use larger pieces of paper because it needed to fit into the scanner.)

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