New York: Leveling the playing field for mail-in voting?

There has been quite a stir in New York about the setup of their new optical scan voting systems.  It may disenfranchise voters by not adequately warning them about overvotes.  Here is one story from DNA Manhattan Local news: New Voting Machines Spur Concerns About Confusion and Fraud <read>

Questions about the confusing nature of New York’s new voting machines are at the heart of a lawsuit filed Monday.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which filed the lawsuit about the new machines, says the new machines could confuse voters and thousands of ballots could be thrown out as a result.

That’s where the green button issue comes in. If a voter accidentally “over-votes” — meaning to mark more than one candidate for a particular office — the new machines give voters the option to press green to cast their vote, or red to get their ballot back.

However, the machine doesn’t explain that over-votes aren’t counted, so if you press green, your vote will be tossed, Brennan Center lawyers say.

They say the confusing choices could be fixed easily if the voting machines were reprogrammed.

In the meantime, voting rights advocates are educating people to go against their natural inclination and choose red if they over-vote, said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, which co-hosted Monday’s demonstration of the new machines with Westsiders for Public Participation.

We fully agree with the concerns raised, yet we point out that every form or mail-in voting including absentee voting, and no-excuse absentee voting has the same problem only worse.  With mail-in voting the voter has no green button, no red button, no notice, no chance whatsoever to be warned of overvoting – just one of the ways that mail-in voters are unknowingly disenfranchised.

We suggest that anyone concerned with the disenfranchisement from New York’s ill programmed voting machines should also be concerned and warn the public of the even greater risks they take when they mail in their votes.

Update: 08/22/2010 New York Times weighs in on scanners and overvotes <read>

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