Nov. 29, 2007
HAVA lawsuit: Sad ending to important process
The situation regarding New York's non-compliance with the Help America Vote Act is a complicated one. It now appears New York will not be in compliance with HAVA by the Feb. 5 presidential primary. A federal court may decide in December how the state will proceed to become compliant.
On one hand, New York has missed every deadline to become compliant with HAVA, in turn jeopardizing federal funding to help pay for the costs of voting machines that are HAVA compliant. As a result, the United States Department of Justice sued New York last year. That case is winding its way through the court system, and on Dec. 20, federal Judge Gary Sharpe is expected to decide the issue. Our old-school, pull-lever machines are not HAVA compliant because the machines are not accessible to the disabled and do not create a permanent paper record or allow voters to ensure their vote was recorded the way they want it.
But the state is not entirely to blame in this case. In fact, one could argue the state was looking out for the best interests of voters because it created voting regulations that are more stringent than what HAVA mandated.
Since that happened, there are no HAVA-compliant voting machines the state can purchase that have successfully met the state's standards.
Meanwhile, advocates for people with disabilities are increasingly becoming upset with New York, since the state cannot promise that it will be able to provide machines in each polling place that are accessible for people with disabilities. There is at least one in each county now, but that is not enough.
No one wants a repeat of the 2000 presidential election, where we all learned more than we probably wanted to know about hanging chads and other debacles associated with voting across the country. And violating the civil rights of the disabled is no way to conduct an election. At a minimum, New York should attempt to get a voting machine that is accessible for the disabled in every polling place for the extremely important presidential primary Feb. 5. There is no excuse for hindering the ability of the disabled to vote.
In the long run, though, we find it hard to sympathize with the Justice Department's lawsuit for the state becoming HAVA compliant. Selecting political leaders is the most important process in any democracy. Our state's stringent rules were made tough for a reason — to protect the interests of voters. It's too bad a federal judge will have to help New York sort out our voting future.
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