BEHIND THE SCENES: NYC Voting Machines

All five counties in the city have their own storage facility where about 7,600 machines are kept yearlong. This facility is in Red Hook and houses 2,200 machines total. Photo: Sandra C. Roa

Sandra C. Roa & Kieran K. Meadows

They looked like vertical metallic coffins, rows and rows of voting machines lined up in a Brooklyn warehouse on the last Wednesday before Election Day. (See Article)

They stood side-by-side, more than 2,200 of them, six-and-a-half feet tall. Inside each one, distinctive levers that recorded an estimated 100 million votes readied for what could be their final service to democracy.

This Election Day likely will be the last time New Yorkers will cast votes using the city’s aging fleet of pull-lever machines. The Board of Elections plans to phase out the Shoup 3.2 Mechanicals by next year’s mayoral election. New York is the only state in the nation that still hasn’t updated its machines.

In the back of the dusty warehouse, a senior voting machine technician, Richard Kanar, picked up a few machine parts scattered along the floor, leftover from hours of meticulous maintenance work performed on each machine.

“This is a handle, that’s a thick,” he said, holding a thumbnail-size rounded metal holder. “That’s a three-strap,” he said, pointing to a flat, seven-inch-long silver piece of metal that looks kind of like a nail file with a hole at each end and in the middle. A three-strap allows only one vote for a candidate who is listed under more than one party for the same office.

It takes 85 technicians to get the machines ready for Election Day. The machines themselves are only one part of an intricate system that includes serial numbers, keys, police envelopes, protective counter numbers, and signed seals, all assigned to specific election districts.

Nearby, Yolanda Bentley, 42, marked some of the envelopes in red to remind poll workers to use the correct key to lock the machines when the polls close. If not, the keys will break in the machines, which causes delays on election night, she said.

Bentley said she was going to miss the lever machines. “The main thing is to get everything out and in order. Either way, it’s history and we’re a part of it,” she added.

John O’Grady is responsible for overseeing the task of moving all the machines and equipment to over 1,300 polling sites citywide.

At a time when the world is working in a matrix of ones and zeros, this facility operates on switches, screws and wheels, and of course many hours of human labor.

With more than 700, 000 new voter registrations in the last year, the squadron of aging machines prepared for the high turnout.

The week before the historic 2008 election, the warehouse in Red Hook buzzed with activity. Unbeknownst to any of New York City’s voters, a team of dedicated workers– no, not Keebler elves performing ‘magic’– carried out a routine set in place since the 1960s. See Photo Slideshow.

Voter Reactions After Using the Machines on Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008

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Voter #1

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Voter #2

13. December 2008 by admin
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