In its 2010 elections, New York City used optical scanning machines, a fancypants new technology that was supposed to cut down on over-voting (casting a vote for more than one candidate). Turns out that the machines overcompensate and invalidated an estimated 20,000 legitimate votes in last year’s gubernatorial election, according to a new study from the Brennan Center for Justice, reports Gothamist:
According to the study the highest rates of overvoting were reported in neighborhoods with large non-white and Hispanic populations. Across NYC, black and Hispanic voters were more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white voters to have votes voided as a result of overvoting. Data shows that the six election districts in NYC with the highest overvote rates were in one polling place: P.S. 65 on 677 East 141st Street in the South Bronx. And “the large Hispanic population in these high overvote election districts suggests that voters with limited English proficiency might overvote at higher rates than the rest of the population,” the authors say.
Larry Norden, the Brennan Center’s interim director, speculates that most people don’t know the phrase “Over Voted Ballot” means too many votes were cast for the same race, and he believes the green “accept” button at the bottom is throwing voters off. “Our concern was that a lot of people, not understanding what that message meant, would just go ahead press ‘accept’ — green seems like a good thing, it seems like a way to get your vote to count. In fact, what ends up happening in those circumstances is that your vote doesn’t count,” he tells WNYC.
The study’s authors estimate that for next year’s presidential election, with its higher turnout, the voting machines could result in as many as 100,000 legitimate votes falling by the wayside.