Board of Elections to organize demos of new machines

ELIZABETHTOWN - At the urging of the State Board of Elections, Essex County is looking to organize demonstrations of new electronic voting machines for next fall's elections.

Democratic Election Commissioner David Mace told the board of supervisors last week that state officials have submitted a plan to the Department of Justice for switching over from old paper ballot machines to new electronic ones.

"They are asking each county to volunteer to do a one-town demonstration with the new machines," Mace said. "Which would mean replacing the lever machines in that town."

Mace said this fall is ideal because there are no federal elections. The Department of Justice will most likely recommend a federal court to accept the demonstration plan, or "pilot project" as state officials have deemed it, by next week.

If the federal court rejects the plan - which Mace says is unlikely - then a mandated switch to electronic machines will occur in 2010.

The pilot project would require elections commissioners to choose one town in Essex County where voters would utilize the new system. Mace said selection of that town would be based on two criteria.

"One is that there would likely not be a contentious election in that town," Mace said. "And, undoubtedly, there will be some towns where candidates run unopposed."

The other criteria, Mace said, is the municipality's relative distance from the county seat - Elizabethtown.

"In case we have to deal with issues during the day," Mace added. "And that will make it a more manageable pilot project."

Mace was unsure whether or not every county in the state had to participate in the pilot project, although the state Board of Elections is recommending every county take part. Aside from Essex County, Schenectady and Albany County have signed on to the pilot project.

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