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Video shows NYC voting error, not fraud

November 8, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A video shows a voter in New York City attempting to vote for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Lee Zeldin, but encountering repeated issues with a machine, which is indicative of fraud.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The voter was attempting to use an electronic ballot-marking device, which is used for accessibility purposes to complete a ballot, even though he had already filled in the ballot by hand. The machine is not used to cast and count ballots.

THE FACTS: Social media users are spreading a New York City voter’s video of issues he experienced while trying to submit his ballot, but erroneously concluding it’s evidence of fraud.

In a video clip posted on Facebook, Jon Borowski explains that he attempted to vote for Zeldin by inserting his ballot into a machine and got a message indicating he had not made a selection for that race. Then, in another clip, he explains that he darkened the circles, but again was rebuffed. The machine’s screen shows a message that begins, “The ballot you have inserted has already been marked.”

Social media accounts shared the clips in videos that suggested the account was proof of fraud.

“If they aren’t cheating why do the ‘errors’ only ever favor one party?” reads text overlaid on an Instagram reel that received more than 1,700 likes.

But the video does not show election fraud.

The video shows that the machine is an “AutoMark” -- which is the Election Systems & Software AutoMark, an electronic ballot-marking device.

“The AutoMark is a marking device, not a scanning and tabulation device,” Vincent Ignizio, deputy executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, told The Associated Press.

The New York State Board of Elections website also explains that the AutoMark machine is used to complete a ballot on a machine in privacy and provides accessibility “to voters who are blind, vision-impaired, or have a disability or condition that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot.” It can also be used to provide voters with different language options.

“The information you shared appears to show a voter attempting to place a hand marked ballot, which is a ballot marked with a pen or pencil, into an AutoMark,” Katina Granger, an ES&S spokesperson, said in an email. “The AutoMark is an assistive ballot marking device used by several counties in New York for ADA voters. It is not a ballot tabulator. Voters using this device should receive an unmarked ballot from the poll worker, which voters use to mark their ballot.”

Granger said that if a voter places a hand-marked ballot into an AutoMark, “the machine will alert the voter they are placing a ballot in the machine that has already been marked” and that they should ask a poll worker for a new, unmarked ballot.

Voters using a ballot-marking device must still bring the completed ballot to an optical scanner to be counted, according to the city Board of Elections.

Borowski, 39, said in an interview that he attempted to vote on Nov. 3, during the early voting period, at the Frank Kowalinski Post No. 4 polling location on Maspeth Avenue in Queens.

It was Borowski’s first time at that specific location, he said, and a poll worker “pointed to the machine and he says, ‘go over there to the machine and scan your ballot.’”

Borowski said he attempted to darken the circles after consulting with the poll worker regarding his first problem with trying to submit his hand-marked ballot. After his second unsuccessful attempt to submit his ballot to the AutoMark, in which the machine said the ballot had already been marked, the worker told him he would need to complete an affidavit in order to vote, Borowski said.

Borowski ultimately left frustrated, without successfully casting his vote. He said he was not aware that the machine he was using was a ballot-marking device, not one for counting ballots, and that poll workers should have advised him on that. “That’s what they’re there for,” he said.

Ignizio said that the polling location has two AutoMark machines and “many” scanners and that Borowski’s account was not consistent with the city’s election procedures. He said Borowski could still use the affidavit process to cast his vote on Election Day.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.