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Opinion

New Yorkers will be voting in a new way next year. The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that the 100-year old lever machines be replaced by 2006.

New voting machines must be accessible for persons with disabilities and capable of confirmation of the voter's choice. The Nassau County Board of Elections will be choosing the new machines for the county.

Basically there are two kinds of machines under consideration: the Optical Scan with Paper Ballots and the Direct Recording Electronic System(DRES). The League of Women Voters supports the use of precinct-based Optical Scan Machines. Optical Scan Machines are used with a paper ballot. Voters mark the ballots with pens, put the ballot in a protective sleeve and place it in the scanner which counts the votes. If a mistake is made it can be corrected at once with the same ballot or a replacement ballot. Optical Scan machines are small and can be easily stored. Only one machine is needed at a polling place. They have been used successfully for 20 years in 36 percent of the precincts in the U.S. These machines require little maintenance and will cost one third of what would be spent on DRES.

Optical Scan is user friendly and accessible to the disabled. A special marking device is provided for the disabled, typefaces can be enlarged and displayed with different contrasting colors and ballots in braille are available as well as hearing aids.

DRES, on the other hand, are large and one is required for every lever booth that is being replaced. They require technical help and maintenance contracts, special handling when transported and temperature-controlled storage facilities. They produce paper documentation on paper similar to that used by ATM machines--it is hard to read and impossible to recount. In Miami-Dade County hundreds of votes were lost by these machines and in some precincts more votes were recorded than the actual number of registered voters. Although Miami-Dade spent $26 million on these machines it is now considering replacing them with the Optical Scan Machine.

There is a fortune to be made in selling DRES. Vendors who manufacture both DRES and Optical Scan machines only display and promote the new machines and withold information on the Optical Scan. Lobbyists in New York have spent a billion dollars to promote DRES.

What can you do? Call your County Board of Election Commissioners - John D. Grace (R) 571 2300 and Jeffrey Stein (D) 571 2413 - or write them at 400 County Seat Drive, Mineola, N.Y. 11501. Urge them to choose the more reliable, user-friendly and less expensive Optical Scan Machine. This will ensure secure, accurate, recountable and accessible voting.

For more information on voting machines, especially the Optical Scan, .

plan to attend an open meeting of the Port Washington-Manhasset League of Women Voters on voting machines Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 1 P.M. at the Port Washington Public Library. The public is invited.

Shirley Barsky

Port Washington-Manhasset League of Women Voters

Government co-chair


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