State senate approves E-poll books at voting sites

Voters could be signing their names electronically when they show up at their polling place to vote on Election Day if a bill passed by the state Senate eventually becomes law.

On Feb. 27, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by state Sen. Zellnor Myrie that would allow the use of electronic poll books, called E-poll books, at polling sites. The E-poll books would replace the old paper books currently in use. The bill has been sent to the state Assembly for consideration.

Myrie, a Democrat who represents Crown Heights and parts of Park Slope and Sunset Park, is the chairperson of the Senate’s Elections Committee.

“For too long, New York has been stuck in the past when it comes to our voting system,” Myrie said in a statement. “We can pay for a coffee by signing an iPad, but we have to sign our name in script to vote. We’re still recording voter history in the same way we did during the years of Tammany Hall and that makes absolutely no sense. It’s time to bring New York’s voting system into the modern era.”

If the E-poll book bill becomes law, it would mark the biggest change in voting procedures since New York eliminated voting booths containing levers and replaced them with paper ballots and scanners.

Specifically, Myrie’s bill would give the Board of Elections in each of the state’s counties the option to purchase the necessary equipment and begin using electronic poll books starting this fall. The legislation also requires the New York State Board of Elections to set up security standards for the new books and develop backups in the event the electronic equipment fails.

Electronic poll books will speed up the process of looking up voter registration status and reduce phone calls to the Board of Elections when voters’ names cannot be found in the traditional book, according to Myrie.

But Ralph Perfetto, the Democratic district leader of the 64th Assembly District (Bay Ridge-Staten Island), who has been active in politics for nearly 50 years, said he’d rather the state keep the paper books.

“I think there is a big potential for voter fraud with an electronic system,” he told this newspaper. “How do we know the person showing up to vote is a citizen? I want to make sure the person is registered to vote.”

Leaders of good government groups applauded the Senate move toward E-poll books.

“Switching from paper to electronic poll books is a simple reform that will help New Yorkers vote. If the State Assembly wants early voting to run successfully this November, it must follow the Senate’s lead and give electronic poll books the green light immediately,” Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said.

The E-poll book bill is the latest piece of legislation in the state’s effort to revamp New York’s voting laws. Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill allowing early voting.

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