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County considers lawsuit over computerized voting machines

QUEENSBURY - Warren County officials are considering legal action against New York State to block its pending mandate to use new computerized voting machines that the local officials say are labor-intensive, expensive to use, and vulnerable to hackers.

Monday, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe confirmed that county Attorney Paul Dusek was researching the viability of a lawsuit.

"The ballots are extremely expensive, the computerized machines need to be pampered and are subject to tampering, no one can be certain of the voting results, and recounts take time and may not be accurate," he said. "The reliability of elections is vital to our democracy - we need to sue over this, we can't just sit back."

County supervisors aired their anger Friday over the optical-scanning voting machines that will require expenditures on labor and custom-printed ballots that may total $140,000 or more additional per election - yet may be less foolproof and harder to use than the traditional lever-operated machines, officials said.

The machines, now under final certification process by the state Board of Elections, were the last choice of the Warren County election commissioners among several models under consideration by the state board.

The state selected the machines under pressure.

The state was sued in 2006 by the federal Department of Justice for failing to comply the federal Help America Vote Act, which became law in 2002, and primarily provided for the needs of barrier-free voting for those with physical disabilities.

County officials said the lawsuit they are now considering launching against the state is based on the argument that the state has now complied with the federal law to accommodate barrier-free voting, but to mandate optical-scan machines for all voters statewide compromises the voting process, is prohibitively expensive, and may produce inaccurate results.

With this voting system, to be launched beginning 2010, voters black out small outlines like students do on standardized tests. They use a ballot that is custom-printed for their voting district. The ballot is then fed into a reading machine, which is intended to record and tabulate the results.

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