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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.''

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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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