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New York County’s New Voting Machines Could Change Voting

Onondaga County, N.Y., is investing $3.5 million in new voting machines that could for the first time allow voters there to cast their ballots at any of the 147 polling places spread throughout the county.

(TNS) — Onondaga County is investing $3.5 million in new voting machines that could for the first time allow voters to cast their ballots at any of the 147 polling places in the county.

The county Board of Elections plans to roll out the new Clear Vote systems for this November’s election.

If all goes well in elections over the next two years, the board would make the historic switch in 2025 – giving voters the flexibility to vote at any polling place that’s convenient, said Dustin Czarny, a county’s election commissioner.

New York voters for generations have been required to vote in their own election district, where ballots could vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and were unique to each polling site.

But technology and new voting systems now allow election officials to print on-demand, customized ballots for voters, no matter where they show up to vote.

“It’s more convenience for the voter,” Czarny said. “And in some places, we might be able to consolidate polling places. Voters will be able to choose to vote wherever they might be.”

New York election officials began using on-demand ballots with the approval of early voting sites in 2019.

In Onondaga County, voters could go to a handful of regional sites to cast their early votes, regardless of their address.

The new Clear Vote systems give the county the ability to initiate such a system countywide on Election Day, Czarny said.

He said the systems come with ballot printers that can store more than 1,600 different ballot configurations that might be used across the county’s 441 election districts.

“We can store a whole county’s ballots on one machine,” Cazrny said. “This would allow us to go full on-demand. If everything is working well in 2024, we will have full on-demand ballots in every polling place in 2025.”

The Clear Vote systems technology will be the first new voting machines to be used in the county since 2008, replacing ImageCast machines from Dominion Voting Systems.

Voters will see little difference when it comes to filling out ballots and using the new Clear Vote systems from Clear Ballot Group of Boston, Czarny said.

“The voter is still going to get a paper ballot and they’re still going to fill it out and deposit it into a scanner,” he said. “But it will be quicker and more efficient. We believe we’ll be able to process more voters per hour with these scanners.”

The new ballot scanners can process each ballot in about 15 seconds, compared to about 45 seconds with the old machines, Czarny said. And the Clear Vote machines are less prone to jamming.

Unlike the Dominion machines, voters won’t be limited to using Sharpie pens to mark their paper ballots, he said.

The county used a combination of local, state and federal money to buy 225 new ballot scanners and 175 touchscreen ballot marking devices for those who use handicapped-accessible machines.

The county considered new voting systems from four different companies that won certification from New York state election officials – Clear Vote, Dominion, Hart InterCivic and Express Vote XL.

Onondaga County selected Clear Vote over the three others.

One of the systems, Express Vote XL, became the source of controversy last week after New York election officials certified it for use in the state.

Government watchdog groups criticized the move because the touch screen machines would replace the traditional paper ballot voting system.

Common Cause New York claimed the Express Vote XL could undermine voter confidence because it provides voters only with a barcode printout of their ballot choices and fails to meet software security requirements.

Each county board of elections makes its own choice of voting machines and decides when they should be replaced.

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