HEARING, JANUARY 29, 2007 - 10 A.M.
GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY IN GOVERNMENT COMMITTEES
THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
Thank you for this opportunity to address you.
My name is Nydia Leaf. I am here to urge you to pass Resolution 131, which urges the New York City Board of Elections to select a paper ballot optical scanner system when we have to replace our current mechanical voting machines.
I reside at 46 West 95 Street and have served as an election inspector at various westside districts since the early 1970s with the exception of nine years when I lived in california. For the record, my pollworker number is 118094.
Ii used to take a day off from my regular job to do election work which I consider a vital part of our democratic process and I am pleased to report I never experienced a machine breakdown. I retired seven years ago and it is easier now to work the 16 hour day from 5:30 a.m. to closing - even though I keep getting older.
I attended the voting machine demonstrations at Hostos College in November. I wanted to view the new voting equipment from several perspectives - that of a voter and that of an election inspector. I tried all the systems- DRE touchscreens and the paper ballot optical scanners.
As a voter my preference was for the paper ballot optical scanners. By marking the ballot myself on paper I had more control of the process - it was mine, transparent and, should a recount be needed, my vote was verifiable.
As an election inspector I prefer the same optical scanner system but for somewhat different reasons. The DRE systems are not user-friendly for older voters and - speaking bluntly - the majority of voters are always going to be older citizens. They are the elders who understand voting as both a duty and a privilege.
As an election inspector I always strive to make my polling place friendly and welcoming, no matter the weather, the hour or the noise level. I can assure you from the perspective of a worker at a polling site, the DRE touchscreen will be nothing short of a nightmare and I refer to the long lines that will inevitably ensue. I have a PC at home and a computer does not intimidate me. but the angle at which DRE screens are pitched, as well as their height and width, are awkward and forbidding.
It's important to acknowledge that polling places in Manhattan are not ideal sites. Lighting is frequently not optimal. Space is generally limited and DRES are of necessity large. Younger voters can deal with physical constraints that older voters cannot handle as well, such as easily reaching the touchscreen without accidentally brushing another part of the screen at the same time. (As an aside, my oldest voter is 97 and walks with a cane but comes every time to vote. I would not want her to have to stretch and reach out with just one finger for each selection on the touchscreen.) With optical scanners a voter can stand or sit down, mull over the choices in privacy, and feel the same sense of control I spoke of earlier. We must not create a voting system that discriminates against certain voters.
The tales of electronic voting machine malfunctions and perhaps dishonesty are rampant. I have great respect for the transparent process New York City has followed in determining the best for our state and city. By not rushing to implement the Help America Vote Act, newer systems have now come into being that are more trustworthy. New York has set an example for all states to follow.
These remarks have been a long and obvious explanation of why i am urging you to pass Resolution 131.
Resolution 131 urges our city board of elections to adopt paper ballot optical scanner systems.
Thank you for your time.