FFor Release: Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Frank Sobrino, Press Secretary
O: (212) 669-4193
Statement by Public
Advocate Betsy Gotbaum
for New York City Board of Elections Hearing
I want to thank the Board of Elections and Commissioner Ravitz for holding this public hearing.
As the City’s Public Advocate and as a member of the Voters’ Assistance Commission, I am disappointed by the State’s failure to ensure that the promises made in the Help America Vote Act come to fruition.
Regrettably, New York State’s slow implementation has led us to where we are today. HAVA passed in 2002, but it took a federal Department of Justice order for the State to accommodate persons with disabilities this past election cycle, and to finally compel the State to go forward with replacing the machines.
While the City’s Board of Elections has done an admirable job given the constraints, we should all be ashamed that our state is the last one in the country implementing this federal law.
Now, with new questions emerging about Ciber Inc.’s ability to evaluate new voting machines, our deadline to select these machines by March 7 is fast approaching. The slow decision-making process by the State has led us down a road where we stand to lose millions in federal dollars. The State Board of Elections’ inability to have machines certified in a timely manner has harmed our city’s ability to make decisions in the most prudent fashion.
Let me be clear – this decision will impact the outcome of every single election from the time these machines are installed.
We cannot disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, the disabled, minorities, or those with language barriers. The wrong choice will have the potential to disproportionately affect those groups and dramatically reduce the trust all New Yorkers have placed in us as elected and appointed officials.
We must select the machines with the best chance of truly capturing every vote cast, protecting the integrity and security of our votes and preserving the fundamental right to vote.
We must select the best technology available – the precinct-based paper ballot optical scanners. It is abundantly clear that the touch-screen voting machines – the Direct Recording Electronic machines – should not be used in our city.
My friends at New York University’s Brennan Center, the League of Women Voters, the New York Public Interest Research Group and New Yorkers for Verified Voting all have shown in their diligent research that undercounting is greatly reduced by optical scanners. The evidence clearly shows that DREs cost more and fail to count a much larger percentage of votes than optical scanners.
Voters have to know that their votes are verifiable and can be independently validated. Only optical scan machines can accomplish this goal and leave a vital paper trail.
The price tag is also a major concern. DREs are prohibitively expensive. Furthermore many more DREs would be required to service voters, especially at peak voting times. If DREs are selected, the ratio of people per voting machine must be lowered to ensure that all people can get a chance to vote, and not be turned off, or turned away, because of long lines. The ratio may be as low as 150 people per DRE, with one lever machine replaced by three DREs. Optical scanners allow many more voters to simultaneously vote in private booths, and have their votes processed and would likely prevent a voting bottleneck, long wait times, and long lines.
It is not just the machines we select, but the quality and quantity of the training of our poll workers, the training and informational materials that the BOE prepares, and our collective effort to disseminate public information that will ensure a proper transfer from the old outdated lever machines to the next generation of voting machines. I look forward to working with all of you to accomplish this vital goal.
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