The Examiner

County Legislators Authorize $4.5M for Voting Machines, Equipment

We are part of The Trust Project

County legislators approved two bond acts Monday authorizing more than $4.5 million for new voting machines and related equipment in hopes of avoiding voting problems this November that surfaced in the June primaries.

By a 12-5 margin, the Board of Legislators approved bonding up to $3,028,000 to buy as many as 280 new Dominion ImageCast Evolution machines that will nearly triple its inventory of the all-in-one optical scan tabulator and ballot-marking device.

Another $1,524,000 was authorized for equipment such as poll pad units, poll pad print tablets and accessories that will help the county Board of Elections hold the election. That vote passed 15-2.

The action was taken after the Westchester Board of Elections commissioners, Democrat Reginald LaFayette and Republican Doug Colety, spent nearly five hours at a Committee Meeting of the Whole last Wednesday explaining the massive difficulties experienced during the primary and in tabulating the votes.

Lafayette said while it was believed that the pandemic caused the consolidation of the polling sites, it was largely the inadequate number of machines. For the June 23 primary, 943 election districts were consolidated into 62 polling sites across Westchester, when normally there would be 363, he said.

The county had about 160 machines for the primary. There are two machines needed at each polling site plus additional machines for the 17 early voting sites. The machines used for early voting cannot also be used for voting on the day of the primary or on Election Day.

“Because they did not have enough equipment to open up more sites, we consolidated them,” LaFayette said. “Whenever you consolidate – I’m always against consolidation – because whenever you consolidate you bring in problems.”

However, there has been intense criticism of the Dominion ICE machine because of various design flaws. Dominion is one of only two voting machine models that have been certified by the state to use in New York.

Other hurdles that the Board of Elections faced included a shortage of poll workers because many are older and did not want to work during a pandemic and the extreme number of absentee ballots.

Colety said there were 39,406 in-person votes cast on June 23, about 11,900 votes cast during the nine days of early voting and about 67,000 absentee ballots. Another 2,000 paper ballots were not counted because of defects or postmark issues.

“Despite everything, despite the unprecedented turnout, unprecedented health risk and an unprecedented political environment, the system worked and we’re very proud of the result here,” Colety said.

He said the Board of Elections has confirmed 189 sites for the Nov. 3 general election and is working to confirm 262 sites. The early voting sites will remain the same.

Colety said that the county should emphasize early voting. There were virtually no difficulties during the nine days of early voting, he said.

While many candidates declared victory or conceded earlier in July, the Board of Elections didn’t certify the results until more than a month after the polls closed.

Despite comments from the commissioners that the voting worked well, many county legislators demanded that the system be improved for what could be a colossal turnout for this year’s general election. In 2016, there were 417,256 votes cast in the presidential election in Westchester.

“People who experienced (problems) before the primary will experience them again because the challenges will be equal of greater to what we experienced in the primary,” said County Legislator Vedat Gashi (D-Yorktown).

LaFayette responded that because of social distancing and heavy turnout, long lines snaked out the door and down the street in some cases.

One of the most outspoken legislators was Catherine Parker (D-Rye). At the lone Mamaroneck polling site for the primary, long lines formed late in the afternoon on June 23. The last voters did not leave the polling place until 1:15 a.m. Parker said she knows of people who gave up and chose not to vote rather than spend multiple hours on line.

“Anytime, a voter is disenfranchised like that, I’m sure you don’t feel great about it, I don’t feel great about it,” Parker said. “As a democracy, voting is like our number one thing, that makes our democracy special and so that really is upsetting to me.”

Legislators pressed the commissioners to focus on how they can ensure a smoother process. In addition to more voting machines and offering higher pay for poll workers to attract more people, communicating the different ways the public can vote will be crucial, said Legislator Nancy Barr (D-Rye Brook).

“We need the communication to come early and often,” she said.

Legislators also expressed dismay at the mistakes on the early voting cards that were sent out which mixed up the addresses for the Mount Kisco, Mount Pleasant and Mount Vernon sites.

LaFayette said the error was inexcusable and that staff members were spoken to following that mistake and would not happen again.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.