Counties across the Capital Region will provide a disabled access machine at every polling site for the first time this year during today’s primaries, election officials said.
The old requirement was one per county. Polls are open noon to 9 p.m. today.
The machines were mandated under the federal Help America Vote Act, enacted to improve voting accuracy and access for the disabled after the 2000 presidential election.
Counties throughout the state had to purchase the machines, using state funds, in time to be used for today’s primary and for the November general election. They will use mechanical lever machines for these races only and then have to discontinue using the devices in 2009, said Joan Grainer, Democratic elections commissioner for the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
Albany County Democratic Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne said next year the county will deploy optical scanning devices to replace the mechanical machines.
HAVA requires counties to deploy a disabled-access machine at each polling site this year; the machines can serve multiple election districts within each county, Grainer said. In Montgomery County, for example, the polling site at the Resource Center for Independent Living, 347 W. Main St., will have one disabled-access machine to service four election districts.
A disabled access machine allows a person with any type of disability to vote in relative privacy, Grainer said. It is equipped with sip and puff devices for paraplegics, as well as devices for people with sight and hearing impairments, she said.
A handicapped person can vote alone in a screened area or can obtain assistance of another person, including that of an election inspector of the same party, to vote, Grainer said. After the person votes, the machine creates a paper ballot that can be double-checked for accuracy. The final ballot is then cast and is later counted by an inspector.
Voting with the disabled-access machine can take 15 minutes or longer, due to the complexity of the devices, Grainer said. Non-handicapped people can use the machines as well under the law, but they have full access to the lever machines, she said.
Grainer said she does not expect many disabled people to use the machines, as most prefer to use absentee ballots. She bases this on observing that few disabled people used a similar machine at the county seat in years past.
Saratoga, Fulton and Schoharie counties are using a machine similar to Montgomery County’s. Schenectady County and Albany County have a different disabled-access machine, but it uses the same technology, officials said.
In the Capital Region, here are some of the races with primaries:
u 21st Congressional District involving Democrats Tracey Brooks, Darius Shahinfar, Phil Steck, Joseph Sullivan and Paul Tonko and Republicans James Buhrmaster and Steven Vasquez.
u 46th Senate District involving a three-way battle between Democratic incumbent Neil D. Breslin and challengers Charlie Voelker and David Weiss.
u 44th Senate District involving Fred Goodman and B.K. Keramati for the Democratic line. The winner will face Republican incumbent Hugh Farley.
u 43rd Senate District involving Republicans Roy McDonald and Raymond Seney and Democrats Brian Premo and Michael Russo, all trying to replace Joseph Bruno, who was Republican Senate majority leader for 13 years. Christopher Consuello and Premo also seek the Working Families line.
u 105th Assembly District involving Mark Blanchfield and Joe Salamone for the Working Families line. Blanchfield has the Democratic line. Republican incumbent George Amedore Jr. is seeking re-election.
u Schenectady County Legislative District 3 involving Democratic incumbent Martin Finn and Republican Tim Macfarlane for the Conservative line. Finn has the line but Macfarlane is waging an opportunity to ballot to obtain it.
u Scotia Village trustee race involving Democrat Andrew Kohout and Republican incumbent Armon Benny for the Conservative line. Kohout has the line but Benny is seeking it through an opportunity to ballot challenge.
u Schenectady County Conservative Committee. An insurgent faction is seeking to oust the current leadership over its past practices of endorsing candidates that the challengers claim do not uphold conservative values.