A coalition of groups representing low-income and minority voters sued the New York State and New York City Boards of Elections in US District Court to prevent the use of a voting machine configuration that would lead to tens of thousands of lost votes. The problem could be easily fixed by setting the machines to a configuration they already have; no reprogramming would be necessary.
The State and City Boards set up their new machines so that they do not give voters adequate warning of and ability to correct “overvotes”– votes that cannot be counted because the machine reads the ballot as having too many votes for a particular contest. Instead of returning the ballot, as is done in many other jurisdictions, in New York the ballot will be retained, and a computer screen with present the voter with a confusing message and a green “cast” button. Voters are not told if they press the green button, their vote will not count.
The only other time these voting machines have been used in the same way in a major election (13 counties in Florida in 2008), they produced overvote rates almost 14 times higher than expected, with thousands of votes for the presidential contest rejected – in comparison to almost no votes rejected in the 36 counties that automatically returned the ballots. African Americans and Latinos, in particular, were disproportionately impacted by the lack of overvote protection.
To read what public officials, civic groups, computer scientists, and others are saying about New York's overvote procedure and the need for change, click here.
Selected Legal Documents
Order for Initial Conference (8/06/10)
Notice of Service of Subpoenas (9/14/10)
Amended Complaint (9/20/10)
Notice of Motion to Compel (11/17/10)
Exhibit A (11/17/10)
Exhibit B (11/17/10)
Exhibit C (11/17/10)
Exhibit D (11/17/10)
Proposed Order (11/17/10)
New York's New Voting Machines Flawed, Suit Says (New York Times, 6/27/10)
New Voting Machines Under Fire From Civil Rights Groups (WNYC, 6/28/10)
Ballot Squabble Becomes a Federal Case (New York Daily News, 6/28/10)
New Voting Machine Opponents Sound Off (NY1, 7/8/10)
Cancel the Voting Machines? (Brian Lehrer Show, 7/14/10)
New Concerns Raised Over Voting Machine Upgrade (NY1, 7/19/10)
Fear New Machines Will Confuse Voters (Wall Street Journal, 8/11/10)
Counties Gear Up for First Statewide Use of New Voting Machines (Star Gazette, 8/22/10)
One Person, No Vote? (New York Times, 7/5/2010)
Does not compute: Board of Elections needs to fix glitch in new voting machines (New York Daily News, 7/6/2010)
Make sure every vote is counted (Journal News, 7/7/2010)
Let's Get Voting Right (Newsday, 7/13/2010)
N.Y.'s elections being Floridized (Letter to the Editor, Albany Times Union, 7/13/10)