We had a very good day yesterday at the State Board of Elections annual conference. Over 35 citizens from our NYVV network came out from all over New York State to spend the day conducting a voting machine survey, talking to election commissioners, distributing reports, and to hold a press conference.
The press conference was well attended by the media, and we brought our message supporting optical scan and against the vendor and lobbyist influences that are corrupting our election processes. Our press conference yielded some excellent footage on the Syracuse evening TV news and a good article in the Syracuse Post Standard. Check it out, the link is below.
The day also showed that we still have a lot of work to do to reach our local and state election commissioners. Far too many of them feel citizens have no business commenting on how our elections are run and what we equipment we vote on. We need to do more work to convince the commissioners of the facts about optical scan systems, even as we continue at the state and county legislative levels to win this fight for verifiable elections.
We've still got a lot on our plate, folks, but our numbers, our resolve, and our strength are growing.
As I told a county election commissioner who complained to me yesterday that NYVV had no business being at the conference:
"I understand that you're uncomfortable with concerned citizens paying attention to what you do and demanding input into how our elections work, but after all, they are OUR elections. You're going to have to get used to it, because we're here to stay."
The Syracuse Post Standard, Wednesday, May 04, 2005
The voting machines with the plaid curtains and red levers will be looking for new jobs come 2006 there's no question about that. The question is what will replace them, and the company with the answer stands to make millions.
But Bo Lipari, head of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, says money and corporate influence, not the needs of the voters, could direct the ultimate decision about how New Yorkers cast their ballots.
"Software engineers say you never buy version 1.0. Well, New York is considering spending $220 million on version 1.0," Lipari said, referring to touch-screen voting machines.
Though touch-screen machines are the front-runners in New York right now, they are both flawed and more expensive than the alternative, Lipari said.
During a news conference Tuesday at the Wyndham Hotel in DeWitt, where the state Board of Elections is having its annual meeting, Lipari lambasted the board and the Legislature for allowing lobbyists to sway them. Lobbyists for voting machine companies have spent $1.2 million trying to curry favor with state legislators.
Lipari's group and others, including The League of Women Voters, want the state to go with an optical scan system, which uses paper ballots similar to the sheets used for standardized tests. They would leave paper records that could be recounted if there is a dispute.
Touch-screen systems do not have paper ballots, but can generate reports on paper. But Lipari said there are problems with touch-screen systems that can leave votes uncounted or open to fraud.
In Miami, hundreds of votes cast using a touch-screen system were accidentally thrown out because of a computer coding problem. That community is considering scrapping its touch-screen machines and replacing them with an optical scan system, according to the Miami Herald.
Lipari said companies are pushing the touch-screen voting machines because they stand to make more money off them. Touch-screen units cost about $8,000, while optical scan machines cost between $5,500 and $6,000.
But Sen. John J. Flanagan, chairman of the Senate's committee on elections, said Lipari and the other detractors have not considered all the facts. He said the cost of purchasing and storing the ballots will make optical scan machines more costly in the long run. Flanagan also tried to dispel the criticism of the lobbying by voting machine companies. "This is an open process," he said.
Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, also said lobbying on behalf of voting machine companies means little to the board.
While politicians and activists were debating the merits of the different machines, Charles Reichardt and other voters with disabilities were testing the devices, which were set up in the hotel hallway. The Unadilla man, who is blind, said he found touch-screen machines and an optical scan machine that fit his needs. Both types had Braille options and devices that allowed him to listen to the ballot being read.
"All of the machines would allow me to cast a vote independently," he said. That's something he can't do on New York's lever machines. "Privacy and independence are really out the window at this point," Reichardt said.