Secretary of State Susan BysiewiczAs Connecticut voters head to the polls in November and over the next two years, the old lever machines they’ve been counting on for more than 70 years are likely going to start disappearing, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced Friday. The machines will be phased out and replaced with optical scan technology created by LHS Associates of Massachusetts. Bysiewicz said touch-screen technology is not ready for “prime time here in Connecticut,” but the optical scan technology already in place in several communities in the state has proven itself a reliable alternative to the lever machines. It also brings the state into compliance with the Help America Vote Act.
The technology is simple, Judith Beaudreau, a registrar of voters in Vernon said. “If they didn’t do it in school, they learned how to do it with the lottery,” she said. She explained that all a voter has to do is fill in a bubble. Voting boothVernon has been using the technology in its local budget referendums for a few years. Beaudreau said the elderly are not afraid of it. She said last year during the town’s fourth budget referendum they had to go to an automatic recount because the budget had passed by five votes in the first count. She said she was nervous as she fed each ballot through the machine again, as anxious officials looked over her shoulder, but the second count turned out to be the same as the first, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Beaudreau said the only issue she’s ever had with the new machine is the weather. She said when it’s hot and humid, sometimes the ballot doesn’t want to go through. But she said she resolved the issue when she started putting the ballots into Ziploc plastic bags. She said Vernon will be using the machines in the primary Tuesday, Aug. 8.With the new technology, a voter fills in a bubble on a paper ballot, then feeds the ballot into a machine that scans and counts the ballot as they exit the polling place. If they voted for too many candidates on the same line the ballot will be spit back out and the moderator will ask the voter if they want to vote again, Ken Hajjar of LHS Associates said. The voter gets three tries to cast their ballot properly, he said. Ken Hajjar demonstrates the scanning deviceIn addition to the optical scan machines, the state entered into a one-year contract with IVS, LLC of Kentucky to install a voting machine for disabled voters. The machine made by IVS uses telephone technology and a keypad to help disabled voters, like Marty Knight, vote without the assistance of a moderator. Knight, who has retinitis pigmentosa, said the device looks like a remote control with headphones and prompts a voter through the ballot, then repeats back their choices before casting the final ballot. He said during one election he had trouble getting someone to assist him in the voting booth. He said they refused several times while telling him he was holding up the line. “I will gladly stand in here until 8:01 p.m. if I don’t get any assistance,” he recalled. He said when he was allowed to test the device in 2003, “it was the first time I knew for sure my vote was cast the way I wanted to vote.” Bysiewicz said the state entered into the one-year, $1 million contract with the company. Click hereto see what her opponent had to say about the device. Click here to test out the IVS technology yourself.