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Town balks at electronic voting
By Gary Alexander , Correspondent
SHOKAN - The Olive Town Board, citing voter concern about the reliability of electronic voting systems recommended by the Help America Vote Act of 2003, has resolved to resist the introduction of the new machines in the town's hamlets.

"The integrity of the machines is a major question," said Olive Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle, who has the responsibility of supervising local elections.

"A lot of states just rushed out and bought them," Rozzelle added of the electronic touch-screen machines and Internet voting technology, for which the federal act allocated $3.8 billion for state purchase. "You have five major (voting machine) companies lobbying every one of your representatives."

But beyond the $7,000 price for a machine that many experts judge less accurate and dependable than older systems, Rozzelle sees costs additional to the $140 million New York state is expected to spend to acquire the technology.

"The machines have to be stored in environmentally sensitive places with heat, air conditioning, humidity control," she said. "Then, you can no longer have someone mechanically minded to maintain the old lever-action machines. You'll be paying for a very expensive computer programmer."

The primary objections, however, concern the ease with which votes can be rigged with the new technology, Rozzelle continued, noting a number of such cases she finds alarming, including a well-publicized case in Maryland where a "hacker" with simple tools entered a polling station and reprogrammed results in the time it takes to cast a vote.

The resolution offered by Supervisor Berndt Leifeld, which passed 4-0 with Councilman Bruce LaMonda absent, draws reference to 100,000 votes lost to a software error when the brand new systems were used in the 2002 Florida elections as well as "irregularities" reported in many other states. The new systems, without verifiable paper trails, "suffer serious flaws," according to the resolution, while "the tamperproof lever voting machines currently used by the Town of Olive have produced accurate and efficient results for over fifty years, functioning even during power outages."

Individual voters, the resolution adds, have said they will refuse to vote on paperless electronic voting systems. The board called for legislation requiring "a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits and recounts" before the November general election. "We cannot afford another major assault on the integrity of the American electoral process as demonstrated in the Presidential Election of 2000," the resolution said.

"I want a paper trail," said Rozzelle, "or, personally, I will not vote on electronic machines."

In another matter, Vincent Bruck was appointed as police commissioner to succeed Richard Ostrander, who resigned in January. Berton S. Ketchum was appointed to the Assessment Review Board.

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