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New machine for voting comes to boro

Queens legislators gathered in front of the Alexander Graham Bell School in Bayside Sunday to urge residents to educate themselves on the new voting procedures they will encounter next month when they cast ballots in the primary.

Gone are the big, bulky voting machines with the red levers city voters have used for the past five decades. In their place will be paper ballots with fill-in ovals — something reminiscent of multiple choice tests — that will be fed into a scanner. The scanner records the voter’s choice, but the physical evidence of the vote will remain.

“Voters who voted in the old school board elections, not a lot of us voted in those elections but I always did, and those who voted by absentee or the occasional absentee ballot might not be totally thrown off by the new system, but the reality is that the overwhelming number of voters in a primary and certainly in a November election never touched a paper ballot,” said state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck).

David Weprin was joined Sunday by state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and a group of residents from northeast Queens Sunday at the Bayside school that is used as a voting site.

Legislators and residents stressed the importance of voters familiarizing themselves with the new process, which individuals may do at free demonstrations at sites throughout the city. Locations can be found online at http://vote.nyc.ny.us.

City officials have also been mailing information about the new process, which was mandated by a federal law called the Help America Vote Act. The act was drafted in part as a response to the confusion over paperless ballots in the 2000 presidential election.

“We have to commend the city and state Board of Elections for preparing voters for this new form of voting,” Stavisky said. “New technology can be a little scary, but two years from now, during the next election, it’ll be second nature.”

Mark Weprin suggested residents give themselves a little more time to vote this year in case there is any confusion.

“I want to make sure people realize learning the new process will be a little difficult,” he said. “But in the end, this will be a much simpler process.”

Officials said they were especially pleased that there will be a permanent record of the vote.

“It makes it easier to identify the actual vote,” David Weprin said. “That’s the main advantage.”

Marsha Roth, a polling site coordinator who last year was stationed at the Alexander Graham Bell School, said she is looking forward to the new machines.

“It’ll definitely be an improvement over what we’ve had,” Roth said. “It’s more beneficial for the voter.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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