Friday, 19 October 2012 00:001. We have not had a redistricting year election in Nassau County that didn’t have pockets of problems or confusion in the polling places. Be prepared.
2. Changes in federal and state legislative district borders, effective on January 1, have forced the merger or splitting of some election districts (neighborhood level voting precincts). It didn’t help that the Nassau County Board of Elections, run by the two major parties, was late in finalizing new election district-level maps (making ballot qualification problematic for outsiders).
3. Protect yourself and your loved ones by taking about 15 seconds, preferably right now, and confirm your voter registration and your polling place using the New York State Board of Elections online voter database. Put in your name, address and birthdate and it will give you all relevant district numbers and even a map link showing the location of your polling place. Just type this into any web browser address bar: voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us
4. For every election district voting station, there will be two Democratic and two Republican inspectors, appointed by the parties. Well, theoretically. These are the people who sign you in and direct you to the machine. It is rare that there is any kind of actual malice or mischief on the part of inspectors.
5. In large swaths of this county, the parties exist only on paper, and in some places not even on paper. For a long time, being an Inspector was a respected neighborhood position throughout the year. They conducted local registration drives and were considered party officials and local community representatives. Not so much anymore. Some inspectors are well-meaning, sometimes baffled people with little quality training. Some were pulled in at the last minute, left to flounder by an irresponsible county government.
6. Chances are, the inspectors are just as confused or frustrated as you. In case of emergency, everybody stay calm and the neighborhood will get through it together.
7. Remember this phrase when you go to vote: “Please call Mineola.” In addition to the official main number (571-2411), the county Board of Elections issues inspectors with internal numbers where an Election Day chief can answer questions, dispatch technicians and issue emergency instructions.
8. They have to let you vote, even if you’re challenged. If there is a serious question that can’t be worked out, you can vote on a paper “Affidavit Ballot.” Officials will rule later if your vote will count.
9. If you aren’t sure, ask. 1-866-OUR-VOTE connects to the nonpartisan voter Election Protection Coalition that can help you navigate absentee ballots, Election Day illnesses and other complexities.
10. Last December, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a disturbing report on the optical scan voting machines now used in Nassau and nine other New York counties, including New York City. These DS200 machines, manufactured by the ES&S company of Omaha, were found to occasionally freeze up without warning. They also sometimes failed to create a proper error log file that would let election officials know about and trace problems. They also sometimes misread ballots. In short, the objective tests confirmed what some of us had already figured out by watching. The State Board of Elections was supposed to approve software updates to the DS200 machines, but even minor corrections or changes takes too long. Even after public vetting of the huge testing reports and independent review of the computer code, it takes at least two months for machines to be updated at the county level. In September, the state board punted and will not move forward with improvements until next year.
11. You are warned.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org