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New York Turns To Old Voting Machines For Upcoming Primary


Now to New York State where there have been other election problems. Election officials there say it's taking too long to finalize race results using electronic machines. So they're going old school and bringing out those with mechanical levers. WNYC's Brigid Bergin has the story.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: At a six-story warehouse in Brooklyn that used to be a Christmas ornament factory, there are rows and rows of mechanical lever voting machines. Each one is wrapped in a clear plastic bag. John O'Grady, the chief technician of the New York City Board of Elections, is getting them ready to haul out of storage.

JOHN O'GRADY: Each one of the machines weighs 840 pounds unloaded. They have 20,000 moving parts. They're 50 years old.

BERGIN: It started with a warning from City Board officials. They said the current machines, three-year-old optical scanners, couldn't handle a primary election and then a runoff two weeks later. That gets triggered if no one wins more than 40 percent in the first election.

DEAN LOGAN: As a West Coaster, I do find that pretty shocking.

BERGIN: Dean Logan is an elections administrator from Los Angeles County. The idea that New York City might go back to the lever machines, Logan says, raises some real concerns.

LOGAN: From my standpoint, the lever machines don't provide the transparency. They don't provide the accountability to a backup that could be looked at in a recount or in an audit. And so that would be very concerning to me.

BERGIN: When you try to explain to voters how it might all go down this fall, lever machines for the primary and runoff, back to the scanners for the general election, a longtime voter like 60-year-old Michael Jewels of the Bronx will crinkle his forehead and give you the crazy eye.

MICHAEL JEWELS: They shouldn't be flip-flopping from one to the other. It should just stay as it is.

BERGIN: Near the fountain in City Hall Park, Mary Kate McCormack gets nostalgic talking about the lever machines, to a point.

MARY KATE MCCORMACK: And I remember as a little girl, like, my mother sneaking me into the booth and letting me pull the lever over when you're finished with your, you know, voting.

BERGIN: There's a "but" coming.

MCCORMACK: I also feel like, you know, we need to catch up with technology.

BERGIN: She was eating lunch with her friend Lisa Stokes, who doesn't care what machine is used. She's more worried about the people running them.

LISA STOKES: I assume that the vote's being jiggled and chiseled, whether they do it one way or another. And I mean, come on, we're New York. We're the Big Apple.

BERGIN: When New Yorkers elect their next mayor this fall, they'll do it with machines from the 1960s. For NPR News, I'm Brigid Bergin, in the Big Apple. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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