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Some hiccups reported with new NY voting machines

NEW YORK CITY — New York’s new automated voting machines were put to the test for the first time in a general election Tuesday, and there were scattered early reports of problems.

In Westchester County, one of the three ballot-scanning machines at the Mount Kisco church where the Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Cuomo, voted Tuesday morning was out of service.

“You’re phasing in a new system. I’m sure there will be hiccups as we go,” Cuomo said after being told of the problem, which didn’t hamper his ability to cast a ballot. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed that there are no real disruptions.”

The Journal News reported on its website that a polling station in Hartsdale opened about two hours late because election workers couldn’t access ballots that had been locked away by a school custodian for safekeeping.

The new electronic voting machines, which resemble ATMs, are replacing an 80-year-old lever system to comply with new federal requirements.

The machines had a lackluster debut in September’s primary, when thousands of poll workers were not properly trained and dozens of poll sites opened late.

After the rocky start, the New York City Board of Elections fired its executive director last week, and planned to run the general election with interim leaders.

Board officials said last month that they hoped to be able to retrain poll site coordinators, but would not likely be able to retrain — or even train for the first time — the 26,000 to 30,000 poll workers who staff the city’s 1,300 sites.

Among the issues in the Sept. 14 primary was a misunderstanding about the passwords needed to start the voting machines before polls opened in the morning. The codes are supposed to be entered in lowercase, but workers were often unaware of that, officials said. After three wrong attempts, a machine is programmed to shut down.

The New York Police Department, which staffs polling sites during elections, also said then that many sites did not have any working machines delivered by 6 a.m., when voting is supposed to start.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the board’s performance a “royal screw-up” and blasted the organization, which receives city funding but does not answer to the mayor.

He asked New Yorkers to report voting problems to 311 or by Twitter, with the tag #nycvotes.