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New Machines Prove Tricky...for Election Workers

Board of Elections employees figure out problem at Berry Hill Elementary.

Growing pains over the operation of new electronic voting machines were quite visible at Berry Hill Elementary School in Syosset Tuesday.

When Syosset Patch arrived at 11:15 a.m., two of the four machines were out of order. Officials said that the screens–instead of thanking the voter at the end of the process–were instead saying that the vote had counted but also included an error message.

Polling station workers couldn't figure out what the problem was. They debated whether the error message involved over-voting or under-voting the ballot.

It was neither. Five minutes later officials from the Nassau County Board of Elections arrived and immediately deduced the problem: The two malfunctioning machines were clogged because the blue boxes under the machines that hold the backup paper ballots were closed. The machines were unlocked, the boxes were opened and everything returned to working order.

A Nassau Board of Elections worker said there had been intermittent human error around the county–at one polling station the blue box was off to the side and the ballots were falling right to the bottom of the machine–but there had been no actual machine malfunctions. 

The problems certainly didn't create lines for voters. No one showed up to vote in the 20 minutes Syosset Patch was there, with between 15 and 20 election workers sitting idly by. 

By Tuesday evenings poll workers reported no problems with machines at Berry Hill Elementary and Robbins Lane Elementary. A poll watcher at Robbins Lane estimated the voting wait as "30-45 seconds."

The sparse turnout was not unexpected for a midterm primary. Nassau Board of Elections Democratic Chairman William Biamonte told Syosset Patch on Saturday that around 10 times as many Nassau residents–some 400,000 to 450,000–will vote in November's general election as opposed to the primary. 

One woman outside Berry Hill Elementary, when asked about the electronic voting machine, said it was OK but that she missed the "click, click" of manual voting. 

Having any problems voting today? E-mail josh@patch.com.



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