Time to lower the write-in slots on N.Y. voting machines?

A New York state senator says a problem at voting booths has simply ''gotten out of hand.''

The problem: Many senior citizens and handicapped people voting in the Sept. 23 primary couldn't reach the write-in slots in their polling booths - the slots were too high on the voting machines. Democratic state Sen. Carol Berman, who represents parts of Queens and Nassau Counties, asserts that the problem affected ''thousands of voters.''

While some voters asked nearby poll officials to put the write-in ballots in the slots for them, many others declined help because they felt this was depriving them of their privacy, she says.

Traditionally, write-in votes don't account for a significant share of most elections. However, in Senator Berman's district a printer's error forced two county court contests to be decided entirely by write-in votes.

''There was a total disenfranchisment of a large part of the population,'' Senator Berman says. She says she will introduce legislation to change the position of the write-in slot in many of the New York State polling booths.

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