The Daily Freeman



Proposed election reforms draw criticisms

By Patricia Doxsey , Freeman staff


RHINEBECK - Advocates for voters' rights say regulations put forth by the state Board of Elections to guide companies that want to supply new voting machines to New York are "terrible" standards that will fail to ensure the integrity of the system.


Local elections officials, meanwhile, say they are less concerned with the regulations themselves that with what they will mean to their counties.


The proposed standards released last week are intended to provide guidance to companies interested in designing new voting machines to replace the state's current machines, in which voters pull levers next to the names of candidates.


The new machines are required under the Help America Vote Act, which was passed by Congress in 2002 in response to the contested Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election. As part of the legislation, which was adopted by New York in June, all lever-action voting machines in the state must be replaced in time for the 2006 election.


Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voters, said not only are the regulations technically deficient, but they seem to favor a direct-recording electronic voting system over the precinct-based optical scan system supported by his organization.


"We think they're terrible," Lipari said. "They're actually really poor."


Miriam Kramer, a government policy analyst with the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the state Board of Elections "failed the voters by passing weak and incomplete regulations about how (existing voting machines will be) replaced."


Lipari said his organization is still conducting a technical review of the standards, but that, at first blush, the regulations seem to give "far too much latitude" to companies to define and satisfy accuracy testing requirements and what can be considered proprietary information.


He also criticized a section of the new rules that would allow the state Board of Elections to waive some standards and said the regulations, as written, contain vague definitions of "crucial terms."


"There should be no reason that any part of the test or any other regulations can be waived by the state Board of Elections because that would make the regulations meaningless," Lipari said.


Kramer said the regulations proposed by the board reflect a disregard for voting integrity.


"They don't care about lost votes or if somebody 'undervotes,'" she said. "There's nothing to notify voters if they missed voting in a particular race."


She said the board should have recommended the state Legislature eliminate its demand for a full-faced, instead allowing the use of a two-sided ballot, and should have gone farther to accommodate voters who don't speak English.


"The regulations are weak and need to have significant changes before they're adopted," she said.


Lipari and Kramer also criticized what they said was the "secretive" manner in which the regulations were drafted.


Local elections commissioners said they had not reviewed the proposed regulations in detail but added that they are less concerned with the regulations themselves than with the pressure that will be placed on counties to implement them.


Nevertheless, "I am confident whatever we do certify here in New York, will meet the criteria and be well tested," said Thomas Turco, the Republican commissioner of elections for Ulster County.


Dutchess County Democratic Elections Commissioner Fran Knapp said she is primarily concerned that the state certify new voting machines in time for counties to obtain them in time for next year's election.


Copies of the proposed regulations are available at all county Boards of Elections and can be viewed online at


İDaily Freeman 2005



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