Millions of New Yorkers will turn out today to cast ballots for president of the United States and other offices.
For at least some, this Election Day will be their first exposure to the new electronic voting system.
All polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with people who vote earlier least likely to wait in line due to high turnout. Four years ago, New York state’s presidential election turnout was 59 percent — some 7.7 million votes were cast.
This year, Hurricane Sandy has sent officials scrambling to find new polling places in storm-damaged downstate areas, but no aftereffects of the storm are expected on the voting locally, according to the state Board of Elections.
For people who didn’t vote in last year’s local elections or this year’s party primaries, it may be their first exposure to the optical scan voting machines that last year replaced the familiar mechanical lever machines.
With optical scanner voting, each voter is given a paper ballot and directed to a screened-in area to fill in circles next to candidates’ names. The voter then carries the ballot to a computerized scanner and feeds the paper into the machine, which counts the vote. The ballot is held inside an envelope so observers can’t see how the voter has marked the ballot, and the paper ballot is stored inside the machine in case a recount is needed.
In addition to their decision between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, voters will be making choices for U.S. senator, their members of Congress and members of the state Senate and Assembly. Some voters will also have local decisions to make.
There will be a referendum in Saratoga Springs on whether to change the city’s form of government from the rare elected commissioner model to the more-common city council-city manager model.
In Montgomery County, voters will vote on whether to adopt a new county charter.
Currently, the county is run by a board of 15 supervisors, representing either their towns or the city wards in Amsterdam. It’s a system that has remained largely unchanged since the 1700s. The proposed new charter would abolish the Board of Supervisors and establish a new nine-member county legislature, along with an elected county executive.
Referendum questions will appear on the back of the paper ballot, and in those communities poll workers will be reminding voters to check the back of the ballot.
Today’s will be the first general election since congressional and state legislative districts were redrawn to comply with the 2010 federal census. Redistricting means many voters have new representatives, and unfamiliar names on their ballot.
Sample ballots are available at the polling places for voters to familiarize themselves with the candidates’ names.