Department of Justice Threatens To Sue New York State
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legilative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA
January 12, 2006
Election Reform Groups See Action As Another Strong Argument In Favor of Paper Ballot Optical Scan
In a letter [Download PDF]
to the New York State Attorney General and the State Board of
Elections, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has threatened to sue the
state for its failure to comply with the January 1, 2006 deadlines of
the Help America Vote Act. According to a New York Times article,
"New York is behind all other states and territories in deciding how to
spend its share of $2.3 billion in federal aid to modernize voting
machines and other elections technology." The state has received $220
million for machine upgrades and training but has yet to formulate a
plan for how that money will be spent.
The DoJ's action raises many questions and has ramifications for other
states that are not yet in compliance with HAVA. According to the
results of a survey conducted by the National Association of
Secreatries of States released in December, as many as a third of the
states failed to meet the January 1, 2006 deadlines. However, all those
states are ahead of New York in implementation. There has been
speculation that the DoJ action is politically motivated but it is
clear that New York is unlikely to have HAVA compliant voting
technology in place in time for elections this year and their voter
registration database is still in the early planning stages.
The letter, signed by Wan J. Kim, the assistant attorney general for
the Justice Department's civil rights division, was scathing in stating
that "it is clear that New York is not close to approaching full
HAVA compliance and, in our view, is further behind in that regard than
any other state in the country." New York only adopted a state
HAVA plan as required by the federal law last summer, long after many
states were already well underway in implementing the voting system
upgrades and statewide voter databases required for compliance.
State officials do not dispute the DoJ's assessment of New York's
progress toward compliance. The Times article quoted Lee K. Daghlian, a
spokesman for the state's Board of Elections, who confirmed that the
board received the Justice Department letter on Tuesday. "We don't
dispute that we're not in compliance," he said, adding that the state
had been in contact with the Justice Department. "What we've given them
is what we're doing, and what kind of process we're making. And we're
Election reform groups opposed to electronic touchscreen voting systems
(DREs) released a statement noting that the DoJ action makes the case
for adopting optical scanners/ballot marking devices (PBOS) more
compelling than ever.
“By moving quickly to certify precinct based optical scan voting
systems which have already been federally approved New York State can
be in full compliance with HAVA requirements.” said Aimee Allaud,
Elections/Government Specialist of the League of Women Voters of New York State.
“Paper Ballot Optical Scan voting systems with the addition of a ballot
marker will provide secure, accurate, recountable and accessible
voting. DREs currently being demonstrated in New York State cannot, at
present, meet that standard.”
“The impending action by the Department of Justice to enforce HAVA
compliance makes it urgent that New York adopt optical scanners now.”
said Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.
“If the DoJ action results in New York’s loss of HAVA equipment
funding, we would still be required to replace lever machines. But
without HAVA funds, New York’s taxpayers will pay the full purchase
cost out of their own pockets. Adopting optical scanners rather than
touchscreen voting machines will save New Yorkers over $100 million dollars in acquisition costs. There are many excellent reasons for adopting scanners. More than ever, the scanner alternative has become a no-brainer.”
The groups called on the State and local Boards of Elections to adopt
statewide use of optical scanners and ballot marking devices as New
York’s plan for rapid HAVA compliance.
The potential for statewide use of optical scans were enhanced by the
demonstration by Election Systems and Software of a "full face ballot"
version of their optical scan and diabled accessible ballot marking
device in Rochester on January 5th. New York and Connecticut are the
only states that require a full face ballot. Some questions remain
about federal certification of the new configuration but since the
modification requires only requires a change in firmware it seems like
a viable solution for the state's dilemma.
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