The new voting experience: how was it?

ballot scanner

Voting is now like a trip to the office copy machine.

We voted yesterday.

And it was a thoroughly unsatisfying experience.

OK, not thoroughly unsatisfying. We did get to participate in the political process and have our vote count and all that.

But something was missing.

lever voting machineWe went to our precinct, signed our name, filled in the little circles and fed the paper ballot through the optical scan machine. And while we know it's progress and we appreciate that the machines are supposed to be more efficient, and yadda yadda yadda -- we were a little bit sad.

We missed the feel of the voting levers, the privacy of the booth with the curtains, and most of all, we missed the great ker-chunk at the end. The sound of voting.

We're not so much complaining as waxing nostalgic. If you've lived in New York for your whole life, the feel of the levers and the ker-chunck of the old voting booths were kind of a connection to the past. Election days, even primary days, felt a little more electric because of this tangible experience. We were voting the way our parents did, and their parents did. It added a little feeling of old school civic duty to our modern world.

In some little tiny way, voting the old way felt like a process that connected us to the act -- that forced us to stop and think about what we were doing just a little bit more before the pulling the lever. Slipping a piece of paper into an optical scan reader felt more like using the office copy machine. Something everyday.

All this is just a long way of saying that we kinda missed the ker-chunk.


We didn't encounter any problems using the new machines, which seemed to be the case for most of the Capital Region (with an occasional rough spot here and there). [TU] [@pattigibbons]

It sounds like things were not so smooth in New York City. Mike Bloomberg described the situation as a "royal screw-up" -- and the problems, gasp, forced Chuck Schumer to wait to vote (a press conference almost broke out). [NYT City Room] [Daily Politics] [Daily Politics]


There was something special about those old voting booths...I'll definitely miss them. I didn't have a great voting experience, the machine didn't want to process my first ballot so I had to fill out another and hand over the first. I know the people at the polling place did not look at my original ballot, but it felt weird to hand it over knowing my selections were out in the open.

I felt like the 'new' voting method was more archiac than what we had. I miss the booth! I had to fill out my ballot with a ball point pen? OK, so there's a 'fancy' optical scanner, but the gentleman that fed mine through, I'm sure, was able to read the whole thing. So the privacy thing, kinda gone. I don't see how this is progress.

Bring back the booths!!

I was told- Wait there until you hear the paper drop. Then the 7 or 8 pole workers and I waited with unified baited breath to hear that anti-climatic paper swoosh sound down below. We all cheered afterward. Very surreal.

The lack of curtain really diminished the whole thing for me. There is no ceremony to voting anymore. There could have at least been a "ding!" or something from the voting machine to confirm my vote. Thumbs down.

I didn't like it because I felt there was a lack of privacy. Someone cold easily see who I voted for by glancing at my sheet. The curtain hid everything. I also missed the levers.

The now-retired lever voting machines always reminded me of the old mechanical adding machines used before the advent of the electronic calculator. Ahh, yes.....the solid feel of metal grinding against metal. Maybe, just maybe, we were actually moving the levers of power back then.

It felt more like taking the SATs than voting. I spent the evening feeling like I hadn't voted. I guess because there was no kerchunk to fire off the "I voted" neurons. I was not impressed.

Definitely not as satisfying as the ker-chunk machines, but yeah... probably more effective.

Surely our computer guys can add the kerchunk sound effect of a giant lever...

I would be happier with the whole experience if the voting machines spit out a human-readable receipt confirming who I had voted for. New tech makes me want to break out my tinfoil hat.

I'm just still mad that my polling place never gives I voted! stickers.

I'm a fan of the new method. I was in and out of my polling place within minutes. We had separate privacy booths and the poll worker encouraged me to keep my sheet face down. The ballot went in print side down so privacy really wasn't an issue.

While the lever machines were entertaining there was no guarantee of accuracy. A couple poll workers could easily manipulate the results and there would be no way of recounting to verify.

Congratulations to all of you who were allowed to help decide who I will be allowed to vote for in the general election (I'm not a member of one of your factions and therefore not allowed to participate in these elections my taxes pay for). I hope you turned out some good choices.

Anyone know what is happening with the old voting machines? I'd love to get a hold of one and repurpose it into something, or at the very least make deciding what to have dinner a little more democratic.

I don't miss the old booths.
They were always out of toilet paper anyway.

@Rob - from what I've heard, the old machines are still around, just taking up space. Try contacting the BoE and see if they will let you have one (I've heard that the Saratoga County BoE probably would if anybody actually wants them).

@Rob - I heard the old machines are on their way to Cuba. Sounds like Fidel is thawing.

I have to say I went in expecting something better, and walked out having experienced something worse.

Right off the bat I felt I was taking a standardized high school exam, and the old habit of only using a #2 pencil made using a pen feel wrong.

On the first office (Att Gen), I immediately filled in the circle UNDER my candidate's name, then realized that circle was for a write in vote. Whoops, back in line for another ballot. How do we invalidate my first one? Easy, just draw a big "X" on it, fold it in half and stuff it into an envelope. I assume all ballots must be accounted for, but wouldn't a shredder with a counter, or a separate "bad ballot" sucker-upper-type thing be more in line with the whole high tech vibe?

Anyway, got my choices entered correctly on the second attempt, and I agree, the whole feed it into the scanner experience left me all in all unsatisfied. Give me that creaky old lever with all its germs any day. A voting receipt would also be nice too. I would love to have my receipt after I vote for Obama again in 2012 for the scrapbook.

I thought the new machines were OK. As others have noted, privacy is not an issue, because the ballot can be inserted face down into the PC. And although I worry about the security of the software on the machines, the stack of paper ballots should, theoretically, make a recount very easy to do. The old mechanical machines could facilitate small-scale cheating; software facilitates very large-scale cheating.

I think the ballot design could be improved. I have read that there were an awful lot of write-in votes with nothing written in.

I, too, was underwhelmed. In years past, one of my sons would come into the booth with me (the other would go in with my wife). They would watch as we pushed down the levers. (Sometimes I'd even let them press the lever... so long as it was for the candidate I wanted to vote for.) Then they would pull the big curtain-opening-vote-casting-kerchunk-making lever and we would be done.

This time it was a boring "Mommy and Daddy fill out a form and slide it into the machine" thing. Yes, my older son slid the form in for my wife, but it just isn't as exciting.

My main complaint was that there were folders for you to put your ballot in (so people couldn't see your votes before you put it in the machine) but nobody explained what they were for and I doubt anybody used them. (I only figured out their use after I voted.)


They wouldn't give you a receipt listing your votes for you to take with you to prevent you from being pressured to vote a certain way. For example, your office might tell everyone to vote for Candidate X, but without a receipt, there's no way for them to enforce it. With a receipt, they could tell you that you need to present it (with proper votes cast) or you'd be fired.

I'm not concerned about the privacy angle - I'll tell anybody who I vote for. I also missed the whole booth and lever thing too, it *was* more satisfying. But the main problem was that it wasn't working at my polling place. My ballot jammed repeatedly then they finally put it into the "emergency" slot. Then the machine jammed on the person behind me in line as well...

Just voted for the first time on these machines in rochester,
and googled "i miss the old voting booth" - Our machines couldn't take the paper upside down, so we had some odd plastic-y folder thing to hold the paper without showing off the dots. Makes you wonder if these things are on the up and up, seeing as how they couldn't even get that right.

I really wonder who's making out on this one, cause it took me longer to fill out the SAT-esque form than to go in and hack at the cool levers. I'm sure some politician's friend owns the electro-vote 3000 or whatever they call it.

Also, are we renting these machines? How much does one of those
voting sheets cost? 10¢ a sheet? I'm ready to march to get my old fashioned booth back.

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