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Suburban residents enjoy use of computerized voting machines

The new, computerized voting machines rolled out in municipalities outside of the City of Buffalo seemed to pose few problems for voters Tuesday.

While some older residents said they missed the heavy, metal, lever-pulling contraptions, many others appeared to find the new voting machines fairly easy to use.

"They seemed to handle it OK, even though it's a little new to them," said Arnold Chernick, an election inspector at Amherst Town Hall.

Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward said Tuesday evening that use of the new voting machines went well and that any problems that cropped up during the day were minor.

"There were some glitches," he said, "but overall, we had no super problems."

Unlike the old-fashioned machines, which were huge, heavy and hard to break, the new machines are modest-looking, gray scanning computers. Buffalo will get its new voting machines next year.

Outside the city, voters received a paper ballot form that required them to mark their choices by filling circles in black pen, similar to standardized tests. They sat behind simple, cardboard dividers to mark their choices, then brought their ballots to the voting machines, where the ballots were sucked into a slot and votes were recorded.

Ballots that were improperly filled out were spit back out by the machine for a do-over.

At the Twin District Volunteer Fire Company in Lancaster, John and Angelina Valenti had positive things to say about the new voting system.

"I think it's a good idea," said John Valenti. "It's easy."

Angelina Valenti agreed about the ease, adding: "I think it's more accurate."

"It was fun," joked Lancaster voter Tom Fowler. "I asked if I could vote again because I had fun doing it."

But even Fowler could see the potential for problems when ballots are complicated by candidates appearing on several party lines, as well as the added presence of proposed local laws and other propositions.

"If there were propositions and all that, and one had to read the ballot in more detail, I think it's questionable whether it's simpler," he said. "I just don't know."

In Amherst, where the only contests were for Independence and Conservative party lines, much of the wide paper ballot was blank so there were few problems noted and few voters to note them.

"Only one made a reference to the Florida chads," said elections inspector Robin Macks at the Harlem Road Community Center, referring to the voting machine debacle in the 2000 presidential election.

News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy contributed to this report.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com and jhabuda@buffnews.com

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