Lever Voting Machine Revival

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, and Martin Golden, New York State Senator (R-22), discuss the proposal in the state legislature to allow the use of old-fashioned lever machines in the case of a runoff vote in this fall's mayoral election and the opposition to this measure.

Remember These? A Lever Voting Machine Guide


Martin Golden and Susan Lerner

Comments [29]

Upon reflection, this is a really funny discussion. Basically, if you listen to Martin Golden you hear someone part of a do nothing legislature that has failed to solve this problem in time and he now wants to stick his finger in the dam.

I like how testy he got with Susan - someone who disagrees with him and his boys.

No wonder people cringe over government.

Jun. 02 2013 11:25 AM

I love it when politicians, especially republicans, say we have only two options in solving a problem. He has a point. We either keep voting for dolts like the guest today or we don't. Binary logic.

Thank god for Susan Lerner.

Jun. 02 2013 11:12 AM
sue knechtel from long island

i am not a regular listener. just visiting from out of town. but i am enjoying what i am hearing. still, i think this segment needed more time. maybe that's because i'm from long island and haven't heard much about the controversy before today. but, like Amy, i wanted the host to ask some more questions about the bill in the house and also why each of the proposed methods works or doesn't. but then the segment was over. that's why i like an hour long show like frontline.

May. 30 2013 07:49 PM

Nick refers to problems with touch-screen voting machines. Scanned paper ballots don't have those problems.

May. 30 2013 11:20 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

If voting is via the internet, the Democrats will cheat even more than they do now....... slacker computer hackers vote left. (They like the generous slacker benefits the Dems provide.)

May. 30 2013 11:09 AM

In primaries, either:
1- Instant-Runoff voting, where you rank your choices on one ballot; or
2- Preference voting, where you vote for all the candidates you like;
would obviate the runoff problem.

But winner-take-all voting lets the major party argue that you shouldn't "waste your vote" on a better small party candidate. So the incumbent parties are afraid of Instant-Runoff and of Preference voting in general elections.
But in a primary, there are no independent parties.
So the incumbents can vote for a bill creating Instant-Runoff or Preference voting in primaries, without fear of helping minor parties.
So Senator, introduce a bill for Instant-Runoff or Preference voting. I'd support it.

May. 30 2013 11:09 AM
Nick from UWS

"hjs11211: People are so fearful of progress!!"

If waiting in line for two hours with 1,000 other infuriated people to vote, as opposed to a quick 10 minute in-and-out of the booth with the lever machine, is progress, you can have it. As far as the lack of common sense goes, I rest my case.

May. 30 2013 11:02 AM
art525 from Park Slope

SOme comments here point to tampering with the old lever machines. Funny, I recall numerous incidents of tampering with electronic voting machines in recent elections. A quick Google search came up with this link on Dailykos to an example in the last election where votes for Obama were switched to votes for Romney.

May. 30 2013 11:00 AM
Paul from glen cove,ny

First off: the lever machines can be rigged.
Second: With the paper ballot, scanning and recounting piles of votes is a snap.
Third: don't forget, when you submit your ballot to be scanned and it is rejected, you are there to correct it (fill out another). Yes subsequent damage is a minuscule probability.
Fourth: eventually the paper will be replaced by separate redundant backup imaging, and recounts will be terms of hours.

May. 30 2013 10:47 AM

Instant-Runoff voting, where you rank your choices on one ballot, or Preference voting, where you vote for all the candidates you like,
would obviate the runoff problem.
If you need to pass a bill to fix this problem, pass a real reform.
But winner-take-all voting lets the major party argue that you shouldn't waste your vote on a better small party candidate. So the incumbent parties are afraid of Instant runoff and Preference voting.

May. 30 2013 10:41 AM
Richard Williams from Larchmont, New York

Throw politics out the window in this and allow everything else to catch up with the technology. What is in the law dates back to 1900.

May. 30 2013 10:34 AM

That 99 count isn't always an accidental error. Those malfunctioning 100s counters are sometimes deliberately installed on challenger's levers by people at the bi-partisan boards of elections, whose commissioners are appointed by the Republican & Democrat party bosses.

It's easier for the incumbents to cheat on the lever machines. Which may explain the support of the incumbents for this bill.

May. 30 2013 10:32 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Lever machines versus paper and scanners.

Both dinosaurs.

We should have the option for voting on the Internet since yesterday.

We all bank on the Internet and don’t assume that our money is going to mysteriously vanish.

May. 30 2013 10:30 AM
Tony Davis from Brooklyn

I don't understand the call for "high-speed counters." Don't the scanners tally the votes as the ballots are fed into them? Do they have to be scanned/counted a second time???

May. 30 2013 10:27 AM

I like the paper ballot scanners, but that still doesn't guarantee voting accuracy. It has to be understood that machines can be programmed to count whatever you like, including incorrect vote counts.

May. 30 2013 10:26 AM
Henry from Manhattan

How to hand count a million paper votes?


Instead, run the papers through five independent high capacity optical scanners five times each and take the average. There is little reason to hand count them, but I guess that’s still an option.

What’s the option for a recount on the lever machines? Oh right. There is no option. Fail.

That fact that you can even do a recount with the paper system is not a flaw, it’s a feature.

May. 30 2013 10:25 AM

U can count anything fast if u hire enough people to count.

May. 30 2013 10:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Ms. Lerner says there's a bill in the state senate that would help solve the problems w/the current scanner system. There's a state senator on this segment. Ms. Floyd, why don't you ask Sen. Golden why the senate won't vote on this bill?

May. 30 2013 10:23 AM
Randa from Queens

Lever machines, again? Yet another reason not to go back to these steam engines: I attended a poll-watcher training session. We were all shown a a button, easily accessible by any voter, that, if pushed, requires a mechanic to reset the machine - which would usually require the machine to be out of service until a mechanic can get to the polling place.

May. 30 2013 10:22 AM
Rene Calvo from Harlem

During the last election, poll watchers from Carbon County Democrats for Change in PA reported electronic machines that changed "straight dem" ballots being converted to "straight repub"

May. 30 2013 10:20 AM
art525 from Park Slope

Sorry Roy I'm with Nick on this. The old machines were easy to use. You didn't have to wander around the room, first marking your ballot and then taking it to the other side of the room to be scanned. Also it is harder to follow the layout of the new ballots. And finally you have much less privacy in making your choice standing at those little tables with a tiny little wall. I never found anything intimidating about the old machines and I see nothing wrong with something being "antiquated" if it works. On another note, We never had these long lines in the past. And I have to say that while I usually agree with Common Cause I am finding Mz Lerner to be fairly abrasive and arrogant.

May. 30 2013 10:20 AM

People are so fearful of progress!!

May. 30 2013 10:19 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Susan Lerner wins.

Why aren’t those lever machines in the scrap yard already?

May. 30 2013 10:15 AM
Andy from Whitestone

I’m fully behind the new voting system. Everybody else in the USA has been using paper ballots + scanners for years now. Why does it have to be so hard in NYC?

If it is truly this hard, then I propose a compromise: allow the lever machines this one last time in exchange for a complete overhaul of the NYC Board of Elections. Get rid of the partisan influence, make it a full city agency with outside oversight, give them the resources they need to do elections right, hire true professionals to do the work, and stop playing politics with the voting process. It’s past time.

May. 30 2013 10:14 AM

I think that some sort of Touch Screen computerized system (behind a curtain, like the lever machines) would be better than either the lever or the scanner machines.

May. 30 2013 10:13 AM
Quinness from new york

Bring the machines back. I love sending the vote home by throwing the handle. it felt like you did something; made a statement.

May. 30 2013 10:13 AM
Roy from Queens

@Nick from UWS: I hated the lever machines because they were antiquated and intimidating. With the scan ballots, they're easier, especially if you grew up taking aptitude tests in school. Bringing the old machines is like bringing back the Model T.

May. 30 2013 10:12 AM
Ben from Brooklyn

I still have never heard anyone explain what was wrong with the lever machines. Yes, they are big and clunky. But they work.

Meanwhile, we watch state after state reporting problems with optical machines and electronic systems. Why not save the money and wait another decade while EVERYONE ELSE makes mistakes?

May. 30 2013 10:10 AM
Nick from UWS

Is there a greater expression of bureaucratic imbecility than replacing the lever machines with computers? They took an easy, solid, efficient, one step, user friendly, well established iconic system, known and loved by everybody, and gratuitously replaced it with infuriating, inefficient, suspicion-raising, time wasting, personnel wasting garbage. Completely lacking in common sense, repelling voters (which was their aim to begin with), causing long lines, confusion, hatred of the voting process and lost tempers. But of course complete lack of common sense, replacement of quality with garbage, combined with corruption and bottomless stupidity, is the hallmark of our time.

May. 30 2013 10:03 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.