Voting machines for disabled went unused in primary

Not one of the new machines intended to make voting more accessible to those with disabilities was used in Tuesday’s primary balloting.

"None," replied Catherine A. Dumka, deputy Republican elections commissioner, when asked today if any of the ballot marking devices were used, Non-disabled voters cast tallies on the traditional lever-style machine as usual.

Absentee ballots are also available to disabled voters, and many disabled persons have chosen to use them in the past.

This week’s balloting was the first time that the new machines, meant to allow disabled voters to vote at the polls without assistance, were available at all polling locations. For several previous elections, the county Board of Elections had one such machine available at its office in Union Station in Utica. It was never used.

Implementation of the new models is part of the state’s coming into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act. In 2009, all voting machines are to be accessible to the handicapped, meaning all the lever machines will be scrapped.

The county ordered 130 of the new machines earlier this year to have at least one in every polling place. There are about 123 voting locations because multiple election districts vote at the same site in some instances.

The machines cost about $11,500 each, with the federal government picking up 95 percent of the cost.

The county Board of Elections anticipates that the new model bought this year will become the standard voting machine.

Dumka also said today that machine returns have now been compiled from all of the county’s 192 election districts following Tuesday’s primary contests. Results from six districts were not immediately available after the polls closed.

In the only countywide primary, James R. Griffith now leads Dean L. Gordon by a 92-69 margin in the Independence Party contest to pick a Family Court judge candidate.

The deadline for absentee ballots is Tuesday.