Testimony of Diana Finch


Governmental Operations Committee

Technology in Government Committee

Hearing, January 29, 2007


I am here today to speak in favor of Resolution 131, and to urge City Council Members to adopt the Resolution as the prudent choice for New York City.


My name is Diana Finch and I am a resident of the Bronx.  I work as a literary agent and several of my clients write about elections and voting. Most notable is Greg Palast, who was the first to uncover evidence of voter purge lists used in Florida in 2000 and again in 2004,  and to write about the effect of spoiled ballots in elections – undervotes, overvotes and disallowed provisional ballots. Another is Professor Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, who analyzed  the nationwide discrepancies in the 2004 Presidential election between the exit poll results and the official count.


I attended the public demonstrations in the Bronx of the voting machines currently under consideration for replacing New York’s lever machines.  All the machines, and particularly the DRE touchscreen machines, had readily apparent flaws well described in public testimony at the two Board of Elections hearings. The PBOS systems advocated by Resolution 131 are greatly preferable to the DREs.


I have been reading the Daily Voting News email digest, prepared seven days a week by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org.  DVN contains links to voting stories from the day before, in magazines, newspapers, TV and radio, news from the county, state and national levels, all of it archived at the VotersUnite.org website.  Since the mid-term elections, the news digest has been filled with stories of voting machine malfunctions, disputed races, lawsuits, investigations, jurisdictions now struggling to pay for and maintain machines that haven’t functioned properly, and serious problems at the companies now competing to sell equipment to New York,  ES&S, Sequoia and Diebold.


One only has to browse the headlines in the Daily Voting News to get a sense of the disruptive, costly and time-consuming troubles that New York City will avoid by proceeding carefully and cautiously to consider replacing our lever machines only with some type of paper ballot system with ballots marked by the voter which serve as the official record in the case of a recount -- and not with DREs.


From the last three days:


·        Ohio must deal with the ramifications of election workers found guilty of tampering with 2004 election results in order to avoid a statewide recount.  Ohio’s new Secretary of State is considering using mandated service as in jury duty in order to have enough poll workers for elections, as many longtime pollworkers are no longer interested in what has become a fraught and difficult job.


·        Republican and Democratic legislators in Texas counties are trying to decide how to add paper trails to already-purchased machines because of low voter confidence there.


·        In Sarasota Florida, the Supervisor of Elections had to get special legal permission to use their voting machines for a March election, as they have been impounded since November, when 18,000 undervotes were recorded in one race.


·        Oakland County, Michigan, is recalling AutoMarks used in November for disabled voters because of widespread malfunctions.


·        Virginia just introduced legislation, passed in committee by 13-2, requiring that the state’s touchscreen voting machines be replaced by optical scan.


I urge the Governmental Operations Committee to vote on and pass Resolution 131, and to recommend it for a favorable vote by City Council. It is time for the Council to join us and recommend paper ballots and optical scanners as the prudent choice for New York.