Manhattan Voters Relish the Temporary Return of the Lever Vote

By Kristina Skorbach, Epoch Times
September 10, 2013 6:51 pm Last Updated: September 11, 2013 12:36 am

NEW YORK—A majority of voters Epoch Times talked to who have used the old lever machines for years were happy to see them return at Tuesday’s primaries—despite reports of scattered breakdowns across the city.

In 2010, the machines, which were built in the 1960s, were replaced with a $95-million system that reads paper ballots with optical scanners.

But last year, it took 72 days to count and recount votes for a special election for the State Senate in Brooklyn, raising concerns that there would not be enough time to tally votes prior to a runoff, should it be needed.

To mitigate potential problems in the primaries, the Legislature approved the use of the older machines. The electronic machines will return in November for the general election.

Charlesetta Thomas, the Board of Elections coordinator at a polling site at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on East 87th Street, said people are happy to see the lever machines.

Judea Lawton, NYC Board of Elections coordinator for the Hargrave Senior Center polling station on West 71st Street, said the machines are very easy to use. Voters “just pull the lever.”

Frank Ehrlich, an 84-year-old retired furniture importer, voting on the Upper East Side, said he didn’t have a good experience with the electronic ones, which he found very complicated, with too many steps.

The older machines are “simple and clean,” he said. “The machine has my vote.”

Kate, a 24-year-old social worker, who lives on the Upper East Side, said the older machines were easy enough to use, but it is “the 21-Century.”

“Can’t we do a little better?” she asked.

Jake Goodhart, a 28-year-old travel agent, said he found the old machines much more satisfying to use. “Pull the lever, and you hear the thump.”

Scattered breakdowns

At P.S.163 on West 97th Street, one of the 16 lever machines on site got jammed, but a poll worker was able to fix it right away.

When the only machine got jammed at the poll station at 72nd Street however, not only was a technician called, the school site had to dispatch one of its four site coordinators, Calvin Alston, to help out.

Alston said voters were “very upset” about the broken machine, and poll workers had to use 78 emergency paper ballots until the technician, Robert Otero, arrived.

“I’ve been running since this morning,” said Otero, holding about 10 forms he had filled out for the machines he had repaired so far.

Otero was responsible for fixing lever machines at about 25 polling sites between 89th and 59th streets. He said in most cases the breakdowns were the poll workers’ fault and that the problems could have been fixed very easily.

“It’s the same mistakes. When I get there it is stuff that they’ve already been taught at the class,” Otero said.

The city’s 311 complaint line had received several thousand voting-related calls by early afternoon, according to officials.

Sarah Matheson contributed to this report.