Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

Handicapped parking spaces at a shopping center in North Baldwin could hardly be considered user friendly.

Cindy Voyes told us that when she goes to the strip mall with her son, Dan, who relies on a wheelchair, she drops him off where access is easiest, at either end, regardless of which shop they're headed for. Dan waits there until Voyes finds a parking spot.

"Because he is an adult he can wait alone," she told us. "But if he was a young child it would be impossible for me to leave him and go find a parking spot. I would so appreciate it if you would look into this and get the owner to abide by the ADA standards," a reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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The Baldwin Shopping Center stretches more than 500 feet, with a Dollar Tree at one end and a Blink Fitness at the other. Out of sight on the north end of the mall are three handicapped spaces with no access aisles. Two more spaces are positioned in the front with an access aisle on one side, so it's available to only one of the parking spaces. At the south end are two more spaces without an access aisle.

Hempstead Town told us no action had been taken to correct the parking arrangement because the town had not received a complaint. An inspector subsequently visited the location and issued four violations, spokesman Michael Deery said.

"Overall, the lot is not in compliance," he said. Violations cited absence of access aisles and ramps, he said, as well as lack of adequate signs and locations too far from shop entrances. Town inspectors then met with the landlord to review the violations. "We anticipate he will come into compliance," town spokesman Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky said.

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Deery said if the parking arrangement isn't brought up to code within 30 days, a summons will be issued.

BALLOTS AND PRIVACY, CHAPTER 3:

We continue to hear from readers concerned that their votes can be revealed because ballots fed into electronic scanners can be traced.

In previous installments, we quoted officials with the Nassau and Suffolk boards of elections saying ballots could not be correlated with specific voters. But some readers remain unconvinced, fearing that each ballot has an identifying number that can be correlated with the voter's name on a list kept by poll workers. And that the list sequence corresponds to the order in which ballots pile up inside the ballot box.

Late last month we paid a visit to a polling place for a firsthand look. The location: Lake Ronkonkoma Fire Department, where residents cast ballots in a special election for a new county legislator from Suffolk's 12th District.

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Here's what we saw:

-- Ballots start out in a bound book. Each time a ballot is separated and handed to a voter, a stub remains in the book. The stub is numbered; the ballots we saw did not have a corresponding number.

-- The poll worker writes the ballot stub number next to the voter's signature in the Voter Registration Book. That's done, said Nick LaLota, the county's Republican elections commissioner, "for end-of-night reconciliation" -- a process to make sure that the number of ballots issued by poll workers equals the number of votes tallied plus any "spoiled ballots," those discarded when a voter asks for a new one. When that happens, the number of the new ballot is also recorded next to the voter's name in the registration book.

-- A poll worker writes each voter's name and party enrollment on a list under the heading Voter Participation Report. (Voters who aren't enrolled in a party are labeled B, for blank.) Both counties have told us the list is kept as a courtesy to political parties to help them gauge voter turnout.

Board of elections staff in Yaphank later demonstrated what happens after voting ends:

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-- Keys were used to activate an electronic vote count and open the machine to access ballots.

-- When director of operations Keith Tuthill opened the machine, ballots that had just been scanned in were in a rectangular bag. They were not stacked neatly. One ballot, marked with a write-in candidate, wound up in a separate compartment.

Tuthill and LaLota said ballots are not typically cast in the same order that voters' names appear on the list, in part because some voters take longer than others to complete a ballot, and because the diversion of write-in ballots into a separate compartment means the sequence of ballots landing in the machine is disrupted.

What to make of this?

We're not in a position to say that correlating the sequence of ballots with the list of voters is impossible. But it doesn't seem as easy as concluding that the 27th ballot in the pile was cast by the 27th name on the list.