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    Associated Press: Review: Privacy issues, lateness marred NY primary

    The Associated Press reports on an audit from the Office of the New York State Comptroller concerning problems in the state primary elections:

    A state review of new voting machines used for the first time in New York City last month shows numerous problems ranging from lack of privacy to polling sites opening late in all five boroughs. […]

    The city has more than 1,350 polling sites. The new machines replaced an 80-year-old mechanical lever system. They resemble ATMs and optically read paper ballots that voters feed in after marking them by pen.

    In the report (pdf), “Voting-Related Problems September 2010 Primary Election, Report 2010-N-6,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the process for voting is supposed to be:

    A poll worker gives the voter a ballot form and a folder (privacy sleeve), and directs the voter to a privacy booth with a table where the voter uses a pen to fill in the oval near the name of the preferred candidate for each office. Privacy booths are intended to provide voters with assurance of confidentiality as they mark their ballot forms. The voter is then directed by a poll worker to the scanner, where he or she inserts the ballot form, face-up or face-down. The paper ballot forms are secured inside each scanner. […]

    However, DiNapoli found several privacy problems:

    Voters had concerns about a lack of privacy during the voting process. Generally, complaints about lack of privacy included poll workers being too close to voters while they were voting, or offering unnecessary help. Additionally, some voters raised concerns about ballots being exposed to the view of poll workers or other voters when the ballots were inserted into the voting machine. Voters also complained about the absence of privacy sleeves. For example:

    • Brooklyn records indicate that voters complained that privacy booths were not available for use, poll workers insisted on scanning the completed ballots, and privacy sleeves were not provided.
    • Borough officials in Queens told us that voters complained that privacy booths were not placed in a manner that would prevent others from viewing their voting selections.
    • Staten Island officials told us that voters complained of a lack of privacy because poll workers stood too close to the scanners.
    • At a City Board voter outreach session in Queens, a voter complained that she had not been given a privacy sleeve on primary day. She also stated that a poll worker had taken her completed ballot, held it up openly in public view, and then inserted it into the scanner. […]

    DiNapoli concluded:

    The confidentiality of a voter’s choice is fundamental to the election process and is provided for in Election Law. Boards must be able to rely on poll workers to help voters navigate the new voting process without diminishing their right to privacy. Instructing poll workers in how to provide assistance, as needed, without “crowding” voters, and providing privacy sleeves will improve the privacy afforded voters. Voters’ assurance of confidentiality when they mark their ballots and insert their ballots into the voting machines is essential to preserving the integrity of election results.

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