There are two different types of mechanical voting machines in use, the AVM (Automatic Voting Machine), and the Shoup. The operation is nearly identical from the voter's perspective, although the ballots are presented differently. The AVM machine lists the offices (President, etc.) horizontally across the top, and the parties (Democratic, etc.) vertically on the left. The Shoup ballot lists the parties across the top, and the offices vertically on the left.
When you (the voter) enter the machine, you'll see a Red Handle in front of you, angled to the left. To close the curtains and begin voting, pull the handle to the right, as far as it will go. (Exception: in the City of New York, the curtains are closed all the time. Don't ask. Another exception: Some Shoup machines are electrically operated, and do not have the big Red Handle, but use an operating lever in the top left.) If the handle doesn't move, don't panic. You've encountered a slow poll worker! A poll worker must push an Entrance Button located on the outside of the machine to unlock the Red Handle. This feature prevents you from voting more than once.
Once the Red Handle has been moved to the right, the Voting Pointers above the candidate's names become unlocked, and you can cast your vote. Pull a pointer down over the name of the candidate(s) you choose. IMPORTANT: This does NOT record a vote! If you turn a pointer by mistake, just put it back up and select another. You do not record your vote until you are ready to leave the machine! Remember to read the ballot. Many offices (boards, etc.) allow you to vote for more than one candidate, and a substantial number of trouble calls stem from voters attempting to vote for too many candidates! ("I can't get the pointer down for Joe Smith! This machine is rigged!", but the office said Vote for Three, and Smith was your fourth selection! If you can't move a pointer, check that you haven't already voted in that office, or voted for the maximum number of candidates in a group office.)
We'll remind you again, but this is a good place to say: IF YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEM, DO NOT LEAVE THE MACHINE! Stick your head out of the curtains and ask a poll worker for assistance.
You may, depending on the election, be able to cast write-in votes. Most public elections and a few private (non-public: Unions, Housing Co-ops, etc.) allow them. To allow you to do so, the machine has a roll of paper inside it, and you can write in the name of a candidate by raising a little door to expose the paper. You must be careful to raise the correct door! They're numbered to correspond to the number of the office you're voting in. WARNING: DO NOT raise a write-in slide (door) unless you intend to write-in! Once the door is raised, it counts as a vote, locking the candidate pointers in that office, and you cannot change your mind! (i.e., if you raise a slide for President, the pointers for the Presidential candidates will be locked.) Conversely, if you've turned down a pointer for a Presidential candidate, the write-in slide will not move (but you can raise the pointer to release the write-in slot. You cannot undo a raised write-in slot). For each write-in slide you raise in a group office, you reduce the number of candidates you may vote for on the ballot. (i.e., in a group of Vote for Three, if you raise a write-in slide you'll only be able to vote for two in that group on the ballot.) In the AVM machines, the write-in slides are located across the very top; they're vertically on the far left in Shoup machines.
Also, you may (depending on the election) have Questions or Propositions to vote on. These are simple YES or NO votes (or accept/reject, approve/disapprove, etc.) The Questions, if any, are located in the AVM machines horizontally across the top, above the Offices and beneath the write-ins. In the Shoup machines they're listed vertically on the far right.
When you're done making your selections, get ready to pull the Red Handle to the left. BUT, bear in mind that the machine will only count votes for those pointers that are left down, so briefly review your ballot. When you're sure that you've made all your choices, pull the Red Handle to the left to record your vote and open the curtains. (The pointers you left down will raise before the curtain begins to open, so no one can see your ballot). That's it! You've voted!
(It takes a lot less time to do than it does to explain!)
IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you have any problems or questions, do not pull the Red Handle to the left or leave the machine! Summon help while you're in the machine; once you've pulled the Red Handle to the left your vote has been cast, and you won't get a second chance!
1 - Pull the Red Handle to the right.
2 - Turn down the pointers over the names of your candidates, and the 'yes' or 'no' of the questions.
3 - To write-in, raise the appropriate slide and write in the name of the candidate.
LEAVE THE POINTERS DOWN, and
4 - Pull the Red Handle to the left.
Last updated: April 3rd 1997