To promote transparency, the Ulster County Board of Elections invited members of the public to test a new voting system it's considering purchasing for future elections.
It’s not every day that voters get a chance to try out new voting technology and provide feedback.
"It worked fine for me, but my husband tried to put it in and it didn’t want to take it," one participant said Tuesday.
The open house and mock election were hosted by the Ulster County Board of Elections at its new facility in the former Daily Freeman headquarters. The county is looking to buy new voting systems, so it allowed voters to sample some of the new technology under consideration.
"To be proactive, bring in the public. Allow them to see the machines that we are looking at, and in preparation of having to deploy them, whether it’s next year or even in a presidential election," Republican Ulster County Election Commissioner John Quigley said.
Clear Ballot representatives showed voters the ropes. The technology is already used in 40 counties across New York state, including Ulster County, for absentee and audit tabulation.
But on Tuesday, voters tried out their latest in-person paper ballot scanner technology called ClearCastGo.
"What we have here is our accessible ballot-marking device," Clear Ballot's Tony Corbia said. "Basically, it goes contest by contest so the voter has only that one contest on each screen. After you make your selections, the ballot is printed right from the machine and is then fed through this scanner. It’s gonna print out a full-face paper ballot in seconds."
Ulster County voter Keith Gurgui has voted from home using absentee ballots during the pandemic, so he was excited to try out Clear Ballot's ADA-compliant device.
"I work at my local independent living center, so I was assessing this for accessibility and independence," he said.
To operate the ballot-marking device, Gurgui used his mouth to move through the mock ballot on a screen. "Compared to machines that I’ve used before, the audio was off," he said.
Clear Ballot representatives said they’ll be reaching out to Gurgui to get more feedback on the device’s accessibility.
"I’m glad these are open to the public before they put them out. I think that’s really important," Gurgui said.
County election commissioners said they want to make elections as transparent as possible.
"This is an investment in our entire voting population," County Democratic Election Commissioner Ashley Dittus said. "We are one of the largest public-interfacing interactions that people have with their government, so we feel like we’re the stewards of this office."
Dittus said with so many concerns over the safety of elections and voting systems nationwide, they’re taking election security seriously. These voting systems never touch the internet.
"Just like the current system we have, this new system and any new system we explore would not have devices on it that could transmit information," Dittus said.
Election commissioners said they will hold additional mock elections so voters will have a chance to try out other voting systems they’re considering.
"Ulster County, I like to say, is very unique when it comes to voting," Quigley said. "We actually take it serious. We participate and we want to be involved."