Bo Lipari report, 3/28/05
Here's a brief status report on where we stand in the fight for PBOS in New York.
We have done extremely well so far and as you know PBOS is gaining great acceptance among the media and many legislators. Our great success is producing a strong reaction from DRE proponents (which was expected) and the vendors and lobbyists are moving strongly to spread disinformation about PBOS. Their reaction is a measure of the depth of our success!
1) Lobby/Demo Day - the voting machine demo day in Albany last Wednesday was very well attended. We had about 25 NYVV activists come from around the State to help staff our table, talk to visitors at the demo, and lobby their legislators.
The Automark folks were able to bring a system with an optical scanner and an Automark. Eight other vendors were there as well, all showing their DRE systems.
We had a great NYVV table display, with lots of information about PBOS. Our contingent of volunteers spent a lot of the day talking to legislators and visitors as they tried out the various machines. The DRE vendors weren't all that happy to have us there, of course. They were also spreading a lot of disinformation about DREs and PBOS (for example, 3 different DRE vendors were telling people that their DREs "were not computers" !). But we were there in force and had a lot of opportunity to talk with legislators and others trying out the machines about why they need to support PBOS.
2) HAVA conference committee - The HAVA conference committee met once last week, mostly to announce they had reached agreement on statewide voter registration database issues (counties will be allowed to use their existing databases to interface with the statewide database that will at some point presumably exist).
They still have not reached reconciliation on machinery or voter verification issues. We have strong support for PBOS from the Assembly side, but it is unclear if they will actually stand firm on disallowing DREs and requiring PBOS. Due to the partisanship in Albany, now that the Assembly is supporting PBOS the Senate is drawing a harder line against it. The Assembly side seems to be committed to PBOS, but I believe that the voter verification issue is more important to them and this strong PBOS stance will be used as a negotiating point to barter for getting what they want on voter verification. I could be wrong, but I suspect at this point the best we'll get from the conference committee is final legislation that allows PBOS but does not disallow DREs. This will mean the decision on which voting equipment to certify in NY will be punted to the state BOE. The next meeting of the conference committee has not been announced yet, but may likely be this Wednesday, 3/30.
3) Focus this week on the Senate - We haven't and shouldn't give up on the legislature in any case, the fight is not over there yet. We want to focus effort this week on contacting state Senators to support PBOS. Some already do, particularly from the minority side, but many from the majority do not. I'll be sending out this week's NYVV action alert on Tuesday. The goal is to contact, call, and write Senators to ask them to support PBOS and to introduce a companion bill to Sandy Galef's A6503, which calls for the state to adopt PBOS.
4) The next few weeks - We need to begin getting the counties on our side in support of adoption to PBOS.
I've already begun doing presentations to county legislators, executives, and budget committees around the state. We need to make county officials understand that adopting DREs is essentially an UNFUNDED MANDATE TO THE COUNTIES. I'm developing on a five year cost projection and other materials which will show the huge additional cost of DREs over PBOS. Many county officials are rather skeptical of DREs and we need to work on educating them and providing them with facts that they do not hear from DRE vendors. The counties, if they can be won over to support PBOS, will be effective in influencing the equipment that the state BOE certifies, and may force them to allow a PBOS system as well as DREs. If that happens, then we must have the counties educated enough to choose PBOS.
Over the next few weeks, here's what we need to do :
1) Continue contacting state legislators, especially Senators, to support PBOS and Sandy Galef's bill.
2) Continue getting our PBOS message into the media - Op-Ed pieces, letters to the editor, setting up meeting with editorial boards.
3) Reach out to county officials - set up meetings and presentations about the PBOS alternative with county legislators, executives and committees.
Once again, I'm on the road this week. I'm doing a presentation to the Westchester County Legislation Committee this afternoon, and then it's off to Albany for two days of visits with Senators and Assembly reps.
We've done amazingly well, but our opponents are pulling out the big guns in opposition. We've still got a great deal to do in order to win this, my friends. Thanks to all for your efforts!